Palm Springs premieres July 10 on Hulu.
By Chris Flanagan
We’ve all heard it said before.
You inevitably find yourself in a conversation where another person is attempting to describe a movie to you and lacking well-thought adjectives, they settle on saying the phrase, “It’s like Groundhog Day meets ________ (insert genre).” Automatically, this triggers your mind into thinking it already knows what to expect and therefore sways the vote on whether or not you should watch it. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
I am going to do everything in my power not to do this… but just know that I really really want to.
Palm Springs focuses on Nyles (Andy Samberg), a seemingly carefree guy, who is held prisoner as a wedding guest that is forced to repeat the same day over and over again. An encounter with Sarah, the sister of the bride, further complicates their fates as Sarah is forced to suffer the same purgatory as Nyles. Where Nyles has become numb to the lack of diversity, Sarah sees opportunities to better herself and possibly correct some of the choices she’s made prior to this experience while also dragging him along with her.
While the premise might hinder some from jumping right into Palm Springs, that is where the familiarity stops. Palm Springs is a fresh perspective on this particular genre style and while it does offer some of the comfortable tropes with repeating the same day with the same people and interactions that we’ve come to expect it also does an incredible job of taking those expectations and tilting them slightly askew just so that it can tell a slightly different story that in my opinion accomplishes so much more than many of its predecessors attempting to do the same. Surprisingly, the film does this with ease as it reveals a story that is layered beyond just its premise. Its characters, their chemistry, and motivations (or lack thereof) result in a drastically different and layered movie that tricks you into thinking that it has played its hand early in the movie but slowly reveals the true heart of the film as the two main characters begin to unpack their reality.
Of course, Palm Springs doesn’t work without Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti who are the lifeforce of the film. For many, Samberg is an actor who seems destined to play the same aloof character for the rest of his career, however, while he shows flashes of similarity to his previous roles they are nowhere near what actually defines his character which is to say that he delivers a surprisingly nuanced performance. Milioti is the perfect counterweight as Sarah. Her demeanor is self-deprecating and destructive but softens as the two characters begin to evolve. Their chemistry and comedic timing are the true sources of power for the film that not only work well together but also with the supporting cast such as Peter Gallagher, J.K. Simmons, Tyler Hoechlin, and Meredith Hagner.
On its surface, Palm Springs can easily be mistaken for just another movie centering around a day in repeat. We’ve all seen them, therefore we all think we know what to expect. But what Palm Springs is able to accomplish is to take that plot trope and alter it in such a way where underneath its premise is a heart embedded within the characters and narrative which offer an emotional investment into their development and well-being that is lacking in most entries that are similar. Palm Springs offers just enough familiarity where it’s comfortable but presents a refreshing alternative to a well-worn plot device. It’s funny, dark, emotional, and most importantly unique.
I give Palm Springs an A.