Palm Springs Review: A Breathtaking Twist on the Rom-Com Genre

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Rating: 

9.5/10

Cast:

Andy Samberg as Nyles

Cristin Milioti as Sarah

J. K. Simmons as Roy

Camila Mendes as Tala

Tyler Hoechlin as Abe

Meredith Hagner as Misty

Dale Dickey as Darla

Chris Pang as Trevor

Peter Gallagher as Howard

June Squibb as Nana Schlieffen

Directed by Max Barbakow; Written by Andy Siara

Palm Springs Review:

The time loop genre has seen an incredible comeback in the past few years thanks to thrilling new takes on the concept with films including the sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow and slasher comedy Happy Death Day. While there has been a minor resurgence in quality romantic comedies, the genre is still one begging for more fresh offerings and Andy Siara and Max Barbakow have found the best of both genres in their electrifying and outstanding new film Palm Springs.

As reluctant maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) finds herself trying to get through her sister’s Palm Springs wedding, she has a chance encounter with Nyles (Andy Samberg), a carefree partier and boyfriend to one of the bridesmaids. But after a wild night in the desert together away from the craziness of the wedding, they find a mysterious cavern and wake up on the day of the wedding again and realize they are trapped in a time loop, unable to escape the venue, themselves or each other.

There have been a few comedic attempts at the time loop concept in the past, the most notable of course being the Bill Murray-led Groundhog Day, but rarely have past efforts actually taken the time to offer both an interesting setup AND realistic explanation for their cyclical story and Barbakow and Siara have found a way to do both. Sure leaving the reason behind the loop ambiguous is often more fun and allows the film a chance to focus on its characters and their antics, but the duo expertly balance both as we’re still kept in the dark on many of the details regarding the loop while also offered a unique and reasonable answer for why these characters are being put through the temporal ringer.

When the film isn’t reveling in its more fantastical element, it delivers a very moving and hilarious character study on two very real people suffering from easy-to-connect-to problems and their budding romance. Romantic comedies always seem to want to pit two characters against each other to eventually fall in love or throw some obstacle in the way of them clearly being head-over-heels for each other, but the setup for Sarah and Nyles feels fresh and far more interesting than most, making for a much easier to connect to and enjoyable development of their feelings for one another.

It also certainly helps that the script allows the romance to naturally flow from their situation and experiences with one another rather than forcing some cheesy series of pick up lines and cutesy dates onto the characters. The comedy also benefits greatly from this natural character development, and the core concept driving the plot, as the characters react in thoroughly believable ways to every hurdle and obstacle thrown their way, from their individual experiences in the loop to time spent together.

The brilliant script is only further elevated by the outstanding performances from Samberg and Milioti, who unsurprisingly shine in their individual performances while also displaying incredible comic chemistry together. Though we’ve seen Samberg take on more care-free and outrageous characters in the past, his performance here feels unique and shows an extra bit of versatility in his range, marking one of his best turns yet. Milioti has delivered plenty of great performances over the year, but this feels like her chance to truly shine in a more lead capacity and in a role that gives her just as much agency and compelling development as her male counterpart.

The only real flaw in the film lies in some of its more predictable formula points for its respective genres, from the impassioned speech by a total stranger for the guy to chase after the girl to a few revelations in each character that we’ve seen before. This walk down familiar lane isn’t enough to truly take away from Palm Springs‘ overall originality or irreverent take on the Groundhog Day concept, but keeps it just one step from soaring into the territory of a perfect rom-com, landing in the near-perfect realm and proving to be a moving, hilarious and breathtaking work.