Palm Springs, Movie Review
Reliving the same lame day over and over again is a bummer. But having someone along for the wild ride who isn’t trying to kill you brings meaning in a meaningless place. Palm Springs starts with the Groundhog Day setup, but that’s where the comparison stops. This time loop heads in a separate yet surprising direction. And while it all could coast through (on a pizza float) on its charm and chemistry from Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti – there’s more on the mind of director Max Barbakow with his feature film debut. Nothing is the same when it comes to his funny, refreshing telling of two people trapped in repetition and insulation.
The inescapable day is Sarah’s (Milioti) little sister’s (Camila Mendes) wedding, and there she sees Nyles (Samberg), dressed for a luau, stealing her speech time to speak from the heart. Too bad he doesn’t mean a damn bit of it. Every move Nyles makes looks like he’s been there before, knowing how this night will end before anyone else. Him and Sarah skip the reception for some alone time until it’s interrupted by Roy (a terrific J.K. Simmons), hell-bent on revenge for getting pulled into this mess, and puts an arrow into Nyles’ shoulder. Shit is getting crazy now, huh? It’s not over yet. There’s an illuminating cave that Roy vanishes in to and Nyles follows, warning Sara to get away. Spoiler alert: She doesn’t listen.
Nyles tries to clear up Sarah’s confusion now that her yesterday and tomorrow will forever be her today. Whether she goes to sleep or flat-out dies, she will wake back up with wedding bells ringing once more. Seeing that nothing matters, they live it up to the fullest, breaking rules, ruining the wedding, and dishing out payback on those they despise. Though, for Sarah, her new found invincibility doesn’t erase her guilt stemming from her shitty ways.
Showing selflessness or studying good ole quantum physics may be the way for a return to the real world. She’s getting out or will die trying. The question is will Nyles join her? He’s been at this whole living on repeat thing for awhile and he’s numb because of it. It’s not until Sarah comes along that he looks forward to the day. For the first time in a long time, his life is a little less mundane because love has found its way in. That’s good enough for him.
Palm Springs is a rare rom-com where the direction, performances, and story work wonderfully in every phase. Samberg delivers a career best portraying a shutoff slacker who forgot what happiness felt like, while Milioti is first-rate, terrifically juggling humor and heartbreak. Together, they are a fun and reveling pair. Lastly, Simmons is a special treat for the audience. He appears to be the most unbalanced of the bunch, but is the first to make the best out of a batshit crazy situation.
Giving up is the easiest thing to do when trying to exist day to day within the same day. But Barbakow, brilliantly and bizarrely, shows us that it can be a learning experience in conquering what scares us so to see what’s most important to us. We all deserve an Irvine.
Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.