Palm Springs (2021) Review
Perhaps the only thing surprising about the recent crop of time-loop movies over the past year is that there haven’t been more of them. With nearly the entire global population forced to experience an ersatz GROUNDHOG DAY lifestyle, you have to think there are many more in the pipeline but if they’re all as good as PALM SPRINGS (and THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS) then this is a trope I look forward to revisiting time and again.
On the morning of their friends’ wedding Nyles (Andy Samberg) wakes up to find his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) already getting ready for the day. At the reception, he delivers an impromptu speech, saving Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the drunk and unprepared maid-of-honour and sister of the bride from doing so. Discovering that Misty is cheating on him, Nyles takes Sarah for a walk into the desert. Suddenly attacked, Nyles makes his way towards a cave, warning Sarah not to follow him. Concerned for his safety, though, Sarah ignores his warning and enters the cave herself. The following day, Sarah wakes up to discover it’s the day of the wedding once again.
Remarkably, it’s in its acknowledgement and awareness of GROUNDHOG DAY that PALM SPRINGS manages to ensure it avoids becoming a re-tread of the classic Bill Murray comedy. The characters themselves are aware of that movies tropes and use their knowledge of it in their attempts to break out of the time loop. Samberg makes for an immensely likeable lead, especially as we only really meet him after he’s been in the time loop for a considerable time and he’s been through the self-reflective journey that these film’s generally cover. It’s really through Sarah’s belated entry into the same loop that we learn of its existence, its rules and its limitations and it’s here that PALM SPRINGS overtakes its illustrious predecessor thanks to the sparkling presence of Cristin Milioti and the effervescent chemistry she has with Samberg, evoking the repetitious romantic frisson between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in 50 FIRST DATES.
While it never really explains the origin of the time loop, it handles the ‘here comes the science bit’ with aplomb and on its way to its neat resolution it has a lot of fun as the pair indulge in the consequence-free disruption of the wedding day again and again and again. It would be unfair not to mention how great J K Simmons is in it too, but even more unfair to explain why so I’ll leave it at that.
A wonderfully witty, genuinely romantic sci-fi comedy. It may lack the curmudgeonly edge that Bill Murray brought to the scenario, but it replaces it with abundant charm and heart to find its own unique identity.