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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 … [continued]

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Click here for part one of my list of my Favorite Movies of 2020, and click here for part two.  And now, let’s dive into my top Five Favorite Movies of 2020!

5. News of the World I wrestled with which 2020 Tom Hanks film I preferred: News of the World or Greyhound.  Ultimately I gave News of the World the higher ranking, but I wonder if I’ll feel differently a year from now.  They’re both great films!  In News of the World, Mr. Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of the Civil War who now eeks out a living by traveling from town to town to read from newspapers for the townspeople’s entertainment and edification.  Captain Kidd winds up entangled with a young girl named Johanna, who was kidnapped from her family years ago and raised among a tribe of Native Americans; now she is alone and Captain Kidd sets out to reunite her with her surviving family members.  The film is adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles and directed by Paul Greengrass.  I thought the film was a delightful departure for Mr. Greengrass — it’s far more slowly paced and elegiac than the intense dramas and action films for which Mr. Greengrass is best known.  But his skill is on display in every frame of their beautiful, melancholy film.  Tom Hanks gives yet another spectacular performance.  (There’s a scene, late in the film, in which Captain Kidd finally faces the grief he’s buried, and it’s an extraordinary few moments of film.)  This is classical movie-making of the best kind.  (My full review is coming soon.)

4. On the Rocks Sophia Coppola’s latest film stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a woman who begins to suspect that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her.  So Laura enlists the aid of her wealthy, lecherous, “man about town” father, Felix (Bill Murray, reuniting at last with Ms. Coppola for the first time since Lost in Translation), to track Dean and get to the bottom of what’s going on.  On the Rocks is very funny at times — the pairing of Mr. Murray and Ms. Jones yields as much comedic fruit as I’d hoped — while also being a moving, sometimes sad story of the complicated relationship between Laura and her father.  I love how nuanced this film’s storytelling is.  No one is reduced to a simple character, a hero or a villain.  Everyone in this film is imperfect, and Ms. Coppola demonstrates an endearing amount of affection for these broken, flawed people.  I love that about the film.  (My full review is coming soon.)

3. The Vast of Night First-time filmmaker … [continued]

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Amazon’s series, Modern Love, is based on the New York Times column of the same name.  Each episode of this eight-episode anthology series adapts a specific Modern Love column.  Each episode tells the story of a romance; though the episodes feature different types of love stories featuring characters of different ages, genders, and situations.

I wouldn’t have expected this to be up my alley, but I found myself rather taken by this show.  This isn’t ground-breaking television by any means, but it’s endearingly warm-hearted.  Anthologies can be a tough sell, but I enjoyed the way each episode in this series was completely different.  It helps that the cast they assembled for these eight episodes was quite extraordinary (see more on this below).  At a brisk eight-episodes, the series didn’t overstay its welcome.

Here are my (mostly spoiler-free) thoughts on the series:

Episode 1: “When the Doorman Is Your Main Man” — Cristin Miloti (How I Met Your Mother, the “USS Callister” episode of Black Mirror) plays Maggie, a single young woman living in New York City who has a very close relationship with her building’s doorman, Guzmin (Laurentiu Possa).  This slight tale is a nice intro to the series, though ultimately I found it to be one of the weaker entries.  Both my wife and I thought the show was going to be about Maggie ultimately falling in love with her father-figure of a doorman, an idea that we both found very creepy.  Ultimately the episode went in a different direction (thankfully), but because that’s what we thought was happening for most of the episode’s run-time, it cast a shadow over our enjoyment of the story.

Episode 2: “When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist” — Catherine Keener (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Being John Malkovich) plays Julie, a reporter interviewing a young man, Joshua, played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Newsroom), who has started a successful dating app.  Over the course of the interview, Joshua tells Julie tells the story of the woman he loved who he let get away, and Julie tells Joshua a similar story from her own past.  I really liked this episode, and I was particularly taken by Julie’s story of how she reconnected, late in life, with her old flame, played by Andy Garcia.  I liked Julie’s story even more than the “main” story of Joshua and Emma (Caitlin McGee)!  I thought Mr. Garcia and Ms. Keener had terrific chemistry, and I was moved by their melancholy story of missed opportunities.

Episode 3: “Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am” — Anne Hathaway (Love & Other Drugs, Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises) plays Lexi, a woman … [continued]