Palm Springs (2020)
Directed by: Max Barbakow
Premise: Two wedding guests (Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti) get caught in a time loop in which they perpetually relive the same day over and over again. As they try to find a way out of their situation, the two guests reevaluate their lives.
What Works: Palm Springs reiterates a time loop scenario seen in movies like Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow and fuses it with the romantic comedy. The film succeeds on both counts. The hook of a time loop story is the novelty of reliving the same day ad infinitum. It is fun at first but the repetition eventually become maddening and this conceit allows the filmmakers to explore philosophical questions about meaning and existence. Setting the story at a wedding gives this time loop a unique flavor because it puts the characters at a never ending party. But the characters discover the limits of fun and they crave something more substantive. This idea combines quite well with the romantic comedy. The characters are strangers to begin with but they are flung into a situation in which they are only able to have a meaningful relationship with each other and the two wedding guests have to choose between staying within the predictable comforts of the time loop or taking a chance on the uncertainty of a future together. This is an effective metaphor of entering into a committed relationship. The romance of the movie works in large part because of the performances by Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. The two of them are a likable couple and the evolution of their relationship is credible. Samberg and Milioti are capable of both comedy and drama and Palm Springs requires the actors to shift between humorous and serious beats. The actors do this well and the filmmakers show good judgement of when to go for comedy and when to play things straight.
What Doesn’t: Palm Springs remains within the conventions of the genes that it fuses together. The time loop scenario has been seen before and Palm Springs borrows from other films, namely Groundhog Day, but doesn’t necessarily do things any better. Palm Springs benefits from the novelty of putting two people in the time loop instead of one but many of the scenarios they encounter and the lessons learned are ultimately familiar to anyone who has seen similar movies. The same is true of the love story. This is a romantic comedy and Palm Springs sticks to the rom-com boilerplate with the meet cute, the breakup, and the reconciliation and there is little suspense that the story will ever deviate from that formula.
DVD extras: Currently available on Hulu.
Bottom Line: Palm Springs is a successful combination of the time loop and the romantic comedy. The filmmakers don’t do a whole lot that is original with their genres but they do them well and Palm Springs is a funny and satisfying romance.
Episode: #811 (August 2, 2020)