In a tumultuous year filled with longing for new and exciting things to view, one film has seemingly answered the call in a way no other could. A twist on a now classic premise, Palm Springs is a stellar entry into the zeitgeist of time-loop extravaganza’s.
You wake up on the day of a wedding in the middle of the mid-western desert. Unable to please your cheating girlfriend, you take yourself to the pool where you lay and drink beer until your stomach forces you to sink. Then enjoy the wedding, no suit, just a Hawaiian shirt and a vibe. You are Nyles, a man who has spent the last who-know-how-long stuck in an infinite repetition of this wedding. But when the only girl who can bring you joy follows you into the loop, the company could be the best thing to ever happen to you…or the worst.
That is the premise of Palm Springs, the feature film debut of Max Barbakow, produced by the boys from The Lonely Island. Unlike their last feature effort Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, this film has a more downer, romantic tone and plays heavily in the grounds of reality, despite the interdimensional cave portal and the infinite time-loops.
Written by Andy Siara, who has spent the last 5 years developing the script with Barbakow, what this film does to separate itself from the rest of these infinite time-loop extravaganza’s (see Happy Death Day, Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow) is that it traps a second person in it with the main character. Such a simple idea, yet it changes the face of the game. The way these characters are fleshed out is the reason that Palm Springs will stick with you long after you’ve seen it.
There’s Nyles, played by Andy Samberg , who plays brilliantly as a jaded loner who has given up on the idea of one day escaping the loop. Then there’s his time-loop buddy Sarah, played by Cristin Milioti, who can’t stand the idea of being trapped in this loop. As the film goes on, more and more is revealed about the story behind each character and the role they play at the wedding, and the supporting cast is just as fantastic in bringing the world to life and making it feel very lived in.
The chemistry between Samberg and Milioti is electric, and will keep you engaged for every way this movie shakes its tail. But there’s no escaping a mention for J.K. Simmons’ Roy, the villain of the film who stalks Nyles throughout the film, seeking revenge for the life he has been given.
The film’s success comes from it feeling as though you have been stuck in this loop with them the whole time, and while that sounds draining, it is nothing but a pleasure. You feel as though you can remember names and have conversations with these people despite having never met them, and that around every corner you think you have an idea of what’s coming, yet nothing can prepare you for how bizarre the twists are throughout the modest 89-minute runtime.
It’s not a family-friendly ride either. There’s a commitment made in the screenplay and in the direction to keep this film as tied down to the existential dread of waking up every morning as possible, so expect some rough sex, hard drugs and gnarly deaths as they explore the newfound opportunities of a “consequence free” lifestyle.
It’s really not your typical romantic comedy, which is the genre this film has inevitably been boxed into because “man loves woman, woman loves man.” There is so much heart in every character and every scene, and there’s enough depth for that heart to keep beating in a way that will leave you teary-eyed and full of hope at the same time. This is not a hard movie to digest, but it is excruciating in the time it spends building up the romantic part of that comedy in order for the finale to pay off.
Palm Springs achieves a high that so many films in 2020 seem to have failed to reach, and that is something that is so unfathomably human and relatable that you’ll feel yourself have as many epiphanies as you will existential crises. But don’t worry, there’s nothing harmful that will come from experiencing this film. If you’re thinking of dropping acid in hopes that you will have some sort of personal revelation in that void, don’t worry, this film has you covered.
From Jurassic wanderers to interdimensional time travel and disasters both inside and out, Palm Springs will make you feel better about the hot mess that you are, and help you understand that “hey, it’s OK, because you’re not alone.”
Palm Springs is available to watch now on Amazon Prime. Check out the trailer below:
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