Some might criticise Palm Springs as another version of the tired Groundhog Day trope. And to that I would say, who cares? While the film certainly wasn’t entirely revolutionary in its premise, I was more than delighted to watch a few hours of Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti adorable dancing across the screen. Samberg’s charm seems to have no ends in this movie, and his character Nyles is loveable from the first shot of him on a pool floatie to the last.
The concept of the movie is simple. At her sister’s wedding, maid-of-honour Sarah is charmed by the laid-back, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Nyles. They spend the evening together, drinking, making fun of Nyles’ cheating girlfriend, and eventually find themselves alone in the desert together. Unfortunately, before things get too hot and heavy, Nyles is struck by an arrow. As we follow along, we realise that Nyles’ has been trapped in a time-loop for an extraordinary amount of time, and has come to the conclusion that his life is without meaning.
At its core, just as with Groundhog Day, this movie is a romantic comedy. Even before they enter the time loop, both Nyles and Sarah have very little to live for. Nyles is in a dead-end relationship, and Sarah’s self-destructive tendencies have isolated her from friends and family. Freed from all forms of normal morality, the two seem initially to have found the perfect escape from real life. As their feelings grow, however, both Nyles and Sarah wonder if there’s more to their endless life than choreographed dances at the local bar. Palm Springs neatly and light heartedly explores ideas of pain and love.
A review of this film would not be complete without a mention for J.K. Simmons’ endearing performance. His character mainly serves as an initial roadblock and antagonist for Nyles, but eventually becomes a sage of advice. His ability to go from bow-and-arrow toting maniac to doting father and husband adds to the charming absurdity of the film.
The film is short but rapidly paced and doesn’t stop for breath throughout its short 90-minute runtime. The cinematography is vibrant and comical, and, in its style, unlike any other romantic comedy I’ve seen. It has the quirk of Samberg’s artistic touch, and keeps humour relevant and upbeat, never once crossing into the cheap vulgarity many contemporary comedies seem to rely on. Nyles and Sarah also share the on-screen space as main characters, and while we use Sarah initially as navigation into the life Nyles has grown accustomed to, she does not serve as a plot device, but instead grows as a fully fleshed character. I would argue, in fact, that while Nyles is the central character for the first half, Sarah’s ambitions turn her into the protagonist and hero of her own story.
There is little else to say about Palm Springs, other than it is a must-watch. While it is simple in its premise and storyline, it accomplishes both fantastically.