In recent years, the “stuck-in-a-time-loop” subgenre popularized by 1993’s classic Groundhog Day has picked up quite a bit of steam. From the Happy Death Day horror-comedy duology, to the young-adult novel adaptation Before I Fall, to the beloved action films Edge of Tomorrow and Source Code, many filmmakers have put their stamp on this concept recently, to varying degrees of success.
Palm Springs takes the concept back to its romantic-comedy roots, and I think it’s the best example of it since granddaddy Groundhog.
From this point on, I’ll be discussing plot elements that are better experienced as surprises, even in the first act of the film. Obviously I won’t be spoiling specific jokes or scenes, but if you’re very spoiler-averse, come back to this review after watching the film.
Andy Samberg plays Nyles, a misanthropic thirty-something at a destination wedding in Palm Springs, California, in which his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) is a bridesmaid. Cristin Milioti plays Sarah, sister of the bride and maid of honor. When we first meet Nyles, he seems like a lost cause in terms of tact and decorum. It’s an interesting place to start, because as we learn over the first ten or so minutes of the film, Nyles’ attitude isn’t actually what it seems.
Sarah is initially put off by Nyles’ brashness, but as she learns what’s happened to him, she starts to fall for him and is drawn into the time loop he’s fallen into.
There are a few fantastic cameos and hilarious supporting performances from recognizable actors in this film, one which I really don’t want to spoil in any way. All I’ll say is this: Whiplash, eat your heart out.
But aside from how truly, truly funny this movie is, it’s also pretty heartfelt for what it is. The main characters grow and change in believable ways, and even though the premise allows for a certain amount of goofy guffaws, the film also takes its premise seriously in a variety of deep and surprising ways. It also pulls off a terrific balancing act between showing what’s necessary of the drama at the wedding, but not getting too bogged down in histrionics.
Perhaps I’ll write a full analysis of this film later on, but for now, because I don’t want to spoil what an awesome surprise this movie is, I’ll just end this review by saying Palm Springs is one of the best-written and best-edited films I’ve seen this year. And it’s certainly the most sharply written romantic comedy I’ve seen in several years.
‘Palm Springs’ is now streaming on Hulu
1hr, 30min; Rated R for sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some violence