REEL Review – Palm Springs (2020)

Director: Max Barbakow | Runtime: 1h 30mins | Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

On the day of her sister’s wedding Sarah (Cristin Milioti) accidentally follows a carefree Nyles (Andy Samberg) into a mysterious cave. When she wakes up, she finds out she is in an eternal loop in time, repeating the same day over and over.

Palm Springs is yet another attempt at using the day-repeat concept, made famous by the now classic Groundhog Day, joining the likes of Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and Happy Death Day (2017) in an attempt milk the concept for all it’s worth. But the beauty in Max Barbakow’s romantic comedy is that, despite it’s lack of original concept, it is effortlessly funny and casted to perfection.

The film takes place on the day of Sarah’s sister’s wedding, where Nyles reluctantly wakes up with his girlfriend and spends the ceremony donning a hawaiin shirt and drinking beer compulsively. It’s not until we get to the reception where things spice up, as Nyles picks up the microphone and makes an unwanted speech, all while Sarah watches on in confusion and awe. Once the two engage in small talk, the two get together until a mystery man begins firing arrows at Nyles, leading all three people into a mysterious cave.

This is where the concept becomes apparent, and for the next 20 minutes or so both Sarah and Nyles exchange stories and advice about the situation while the two visit many of Nyles’ nearby hotspots. It’s obvious that they need this part of the movie to explain itself, but what Palm Springs does well is pace it so that we are quickly informed, and for the many people that already know what’s going on, it quickly sets up it’s world in order to spend the rest of the film building personality.

After all the reason the rejuvenation of this concept has worked is because of the originality in play. But, while Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day play with the genre, Palm Springs doesn’t have that luxury distraction, and has to depend on it’s cast and humour to see it through to the end. So, it’s lucky to have two leads so wonderfully familiar with comedy, as well as gelling together beautifully.

Andy Samberg plays Nyles like his Brooklyn Nine-Nine character Jake Peralta, just without his giddy optimism and need to be the good guy. While it’s no secret how well he sells the most outrageous jokes, even in the tender moments where he questions his own existence in the looping life, he is wonderfully subdued. As for Cristin Milioti, her ability to panic, laugh and reflect in the space of a few scenes is even more proof that she should be leading comedies all the time. The two share so much with each other, and they bring the basic romcom formula to new heights.

The film does fall short in the final act, as the concept does eventually have to take over. Nyles’ realisation of being alone is great, but it’s Sarah’s story that stumbles as she all of a sudden becomes focused on Theoretical Physics in order to get out of her predicament. It really slows the enjoyment down, but the movie does save itself with a touching ending shared between the two.

I will always be sceptical when the day-repeating concept resurfaces, but if films are as touching and entertaining as Palm Springs is, there is no doubt they still have a place in today’s landscape. A sweet Romantic Comedy that rides on the back of two killer performances, as well as proving that even with an unoriginal concept, you can still have personality oozing from your film.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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