Let's Do the Time Loop Again
Hulu and Neon had no way of anticipating the future relevance of the film the pair snatched up at Sundance back in January. Considered quite a risk to shell out $22 million plus for a time-loop romantic comedy anticipated to be a long shot theatrical bet at best and a risky streaming hit at worst, Disney-owned Hulu took the gamble with hopes of bolstering its strategy of becoming a go-to destination for festival hits and hidden gems.
Well, here we are nearly seven months later in total awe of the move as the romantic comedy Palm Springs, which stars SNL alum Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti (TVís How I Met Your Mother), is a supremely relatable reflection of an audience stuck in a never-ending quarantine time warp of its own. Palm Springs presents both a refreshingly clever spin on romantic comedies and adds something new to the well-worn time loop sub-genre as well. Reminding us of something like the love-child of Groundhog Day and The Wedding Singer, this $22 million gamble has paid off in a big way. And the winner is you.
One of the first things we notice about Palm Springs is that it opens with its main character already stuck in an infinite time loop. We meet Nyles (Samberg), who wakes up in bed with his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner, The Oath) at a Palm Springs hotel villa. Itís the morning of Mistyís BFF Talaís (Camila Mendes, TVís Riverdale) wedding and Nyles is less than enthused about any of it. Thatís because heís living the same day over and over again.
It seems that Nyles somehow got himself stuck in a time loop, but rather than sticking to the tried-and-true formula of most time loop plots, this one has Nyles showing no concern for getting out of it. Heís just content with drinking beer, insulting everyone around him, and reliving the same day over and over. That is until the brideís maid-of-honor Sarah (Milioti), accidentally gets herself stuck in the time loop with Nyles. The pair begin an hilarious journey as they relive the same 24 hours on repeat. And no matter what they do, the outcome of the day will always be the same: they wake up back on the morning of the wedding as if itís a new day.
One of the filmís greatest strengths is the way first-time director Max Barbakow Ė working from Andy Siaraís original script Ė quickly introduces us to the time loop universe, its rules, and how it all works. Kill yourself to end the loop? No, you just wake back up in the same place. Besides, you wonít die, but you will feel the pain. Kill someone else? Nope. That doesnít work either. Change your attitude and strive to be a better, more caring person? Sarahís plan for that strategy changes nothing. As things play out, we learn that thereís at least one other person stuck in the loop with them, and heís hell bent on exacting revenge on Nyles.
Light, airy and loaded with charm, Palm Springs leans heavily on the chemistry of its two leads and, as a result, is not only one of the yearís funniest films (although The King of Staten Island may have something to say about that), but also one of the best romantic comedies since 2018ís Crazy, Rich Asians. Sambergís goofy charisma and lackadaisical attitude play nicely against Miliotiís doe-eyed irreverence. Their roles here arguably represent the high water mark for both and should get attention come awards season.
Also starring J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Tyler Hoechlin, and Chris Pang, Palm Springs is a fun time-out from our current quarantine blues. Itís funny, full of surprises, and reminds us that love is what makes life worth living. Neon and Hulu took a $22 million flyer on Palm Springs, but youíll need to only commit to a breezy 90 minutes. Itís well worth your time to check it out. What else do you have to do tomorrow other than wake up and do this quarantine thing all over again?
(Released by Neon/Hulu and rated ďRĒ for sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some violence.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com .