New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Palm Springs

Never thought we’d be trapped in a time loop like Andy Samberg’s character when when this prescient, fun film premiered at Sundance.

Harold Ramis’ work in 1993 certainly stands the test of time and still holds it’s place against other attempts at using the time loop device. A couple of examples include action films like Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow (2014)  or Source Code (2011) and even a slasher flick, Happy Death Day (2017).

The inevitable comparison to Groundhog Day is apt, but Director Max Barbakow gives a darker edge to Samberg’s nihilist, slacker. He’s the forlorn Plus 1 of his incredibly dense girlfriend and bridesmaid, Misty (Meredith Hagner) at a posh wedding in, yep, Palm Springs.

In this iteration Barbakow and writer Andy Siara start with Nyles already stuck living the hated wedding day. As opposed to Groundhog Day’s Phil (Bill Murray), no amount of good deeds, hook-ups or alcohol can get this day off repeat. And he’s tried them all. He’s neither in heaven or hell, just at an eternal so-so party. Where Bill Murray didn’t give in and kept looking for a way out, Andy Samber gives himself over to the loop and finds a degree of comfort in never having to worry about a job, or money, or relationships.

At the outset, only one other person is aware of Nyles’ plight and that’s the outrageous Roy (J.K. Simmons) who is also stuck and blames Nyles. Roy turns up regularly to murder him, usually with a bow and arrow, but Nyles never succumbs. He just wakes up in the same hotel bed having to begin the day all over again.

Until Sarah. Sarah (Cristin Milioti – The Wolf of Wall Street) is the sister of the bride and maid-of-honor. Weird Nyles has captured her attention. She’s curious and follows him as he walks into a mysterious, glowing cave. In spite of his warnings, she gets zapped by whatever is going on in there and gets stuck in the same time loop. The cave device is one aspect of the script that feels a bit too convenient. 

Cristin Milioti turns in a winning performance, alternately both over-the-top and thoughtful. Her weary, wide eyes tell so much about what’s boiling underneath. As the black sheep of the family, she already has a connection to Nyles. Both have dark attitudes and an over-reliance on booze. Taking her under his wing, Nyles and Sarah team up and he schools her that “Your best bet is just to learn how to suffer existence.” In their case, suffering existence means to just give in to what’s inevitable by going rogue. 

They create a never-ending party together, doing anything and everything they ever wanted, no matter how crazy or how it affects others. They speed down highways, steal airplanes, take over a family’s house and pool, even invade dive bars to show off their dance moves and always with a beer in hand. There are a few reveals that wreak more family havoc which, because of the time loop, they can’t escape. 

Barbakow and Milioti allow her character to percolate and bloom into the kind of caring person Sarah always wanted to be. With the help of Samberg, Milioti as Sarah, is able to acknowledge love and still be able to let go. This creates a moment that is full of sweet pathos that lifts this movie beyond a simple rom-com with sci-fi overtones. For all of us who feel a kinship with this couple living their days over and over again, Palm Springs might be a good one to see over again, too.

Hulu                      87 Minutes              R

from Movies and Shakers

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