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Josh Reviews Palm Springs

In Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakov, Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, a man who, we quickly discover, has been trapped in a Groundhog Day style time loop.  Nyles has been living the same day over and over and over.  That day happens to be the wedding of Tala and Abe, and Nyles is there because his girlfriend Misty is a bridesmaid.  Nyles has already arrived at the point that we saw Bill Murray get to in the middle of Groundhog Day — he’s already lived this day uncounted times, and he’s become resigned to his fate that he will continue reliving that day forever.  But then something changes: Nyles hooks up with the bride’s sister Sarah (Cristin Miloti), and she winds up stuck in the time-loop with him!  Things get crazier from there.

Who knew how much I would love yet another riff on Groundhog Day?  Last year I fell in love with the Groundhog Day type story of Russian Doll.  When I first heard about Palm Springs, I am pretty sure I gave a mental eye-roll.  Yet another Groundhog Day riff??  I was already surprised that I’d enjoyed Russian Doll as much as I did.  There was no way I’d be into still another play on Groundhog Day, was there?

And yet, Palm Springs is an absolute delight!   I was completely surprised by how much I loved this film.  (I listed it as my #2 favorite film of 2020!!)

First off, the film is very, very funny.  As it did in Groundhog Day, this concept proves a fertile ground for comedy.  And yet, while the basic set-up is similar, I was pleased that Palm Springs takes this story in very different directions than Groundhog Day did.  The film is perfectly paced; the story unfolds in a delightfully pleasing manner.  The film has a number of fun twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout (and that I will not spoil here in this review).  This is a film best viewed without knowing much about its story beyond the basic premise.

I will say that I was pleased that Palm Springs proved to be as rich a character piece as Groundhog Day did.  This is not an empty farce.  Palm Springs is a very funny comedy, but it’s also a great character piece that explores these two damaged people, Nyles and Sarah.  The events in the film have real emotional stakes for them.  This is a quality in almost all of my favorite comedies.  I think having some dramatic weight to the story enhances the comedy.

Andy Samberg and Cristin Miloti are both terrific in the lead roles.  I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that Mr. Sandberg demonstrates his phenomenal comedic chops.  (Over the many seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I have really fallen in love with Mr. Sandberg, and I think his comedic and dramatic skills have deepened over the years.)  I’ve enjoyed Ms. Miloti’s work in Black Mirror, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Modern Love.  She is very funny in this film, and she is able to effortlessly play the drama.  (At least, it seems effortless!)  Also, she’s a fantastic foil for Mr. Sandberg.  They have great chemistry; their comedic energies balance very well.  I really loved seeing them on-screen together here!

The great J. K. Simmons kills in a small but critically important role.  He is the film’s secret weapon!!!

The rest of the cast is very solid.  It’s a hoot to see Peter Gallagher as Sarah and Tala’s father.  Camila Mendes (Riverdale) is very funny as Tala, the bride, and Tyler Hoechlin (who’s been playing Clark Kent/Superman on the CW DC universe TV shows for the past few years) is also a lot of fun as Abe, the groom.  Meredith Hagner is perfect as Misty, Nyles’ girlfriend who we quickly see is not someone we want him to wind up with.

I really dug Palm Springs!  This film made me very happy.  Bravo to the production team for creating such a wonderful film on such a small budget (apparently around $5 million).  I suspect this is a film I will enjoy rewatching a lot.

(Photo above by Chris Willard, courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

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