Movie Review: Palm Springs (2020)

TL;DR – Time-loop romantic comedy that’ll delight fans of Andy Samberg’s schtick.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti team up in this off-beat comedy that sees them stuck repeating 9 November due to entering a time paradox that resides in a cave somewhere in Coachella Valley. Think Groundhog Day in Palm Springs, California instead of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

There’s a lot of dysfunction with the entire cast of characters (except perhaps one). The cleverness of this film comes from exploring that no one is squeaky clean, that being human means being flawed and that even if you know everything that is going to happen (i.e. if you were living the same day over and over again), you make choices and your actions do have consequences even when you think they don’t because you’re in an infinite loop. The consequences come at chipping away at Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah’s (Cristin Milioti) own souls because even though everyone around them has reset to 9 November, they haven’t; they carry the knowledge and memory of everything they’ve done on those hundreds/thousands/millions of 9 Novembers previously.

The dysfunction carries both the comic and surprisingly thriller moments in the film, and I became invested in finding out what fate lay in store for Nyles and Sarah. The premise for their paths crossing in the first place surrounds a wedding being held at Palm Springs between Sarah’s sister, Tala (Camila Mendes) and her future brother-in-law, Abe (Tyler Hoechlin). Through subsequent loops presented in the film and through the eyes of Nyles or Sarah, key elements of the story are revealed including:

  • Nyles’s girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner) cheats on Nyles at the wedding reception.
  • Sarah actually slept with her sister’s groom, Abe, the night before the wedding.
  • Roy (J. K. Simmons), a family man and wedding guest, has a wild night with Nyles, does drugs, gets stuck in the loop and proceeds to hunt Nyles to kill him (repeatedly) through future loops. The first appearance of Roy with bow and arrow shooting Nyles and Sarah’s subsequent reaction is nothing short of priceless.
  • Initially, it appears Nyles comes to rescue Sarah when she’s asked to do a speech as the maid of honor at the wedding reception. Sarah is unprepared, didn’t realise she had to do a speech, so Nyles swoops in and does a wedding toast instead saving her from embarrassment. Later, it is revealed that Nyles, does this because he knows Sarah will end up sleeping with him when he does this.

All these nuggets are a sample of the fallibility in all the characters. The only one exempt appears to be Tala, who doesn’t know Abe has cheated on her with her sister and is portrayed almost like a saint having donated bone marrow previously to save her brother’s life.

The many attempts to get out of the loop contain the usual dark humor and creative ways of suicide. The movie is edited skillfully to ensure that repeated scenes don’t bore but have purpose, and the plot moves at a pace that allows for sufficient self-realisation by the main pair even if predictable. The culmination of character development and change in Nyles and Sarah leads to the eventual escape of the time loop.

Make sure you also watch for an extra scene during the credits showing an interaction between Roy and Nyles. It’s a nice touch at the end even if open to interpretation.

7.5 out of 10

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