Modern-Day Groundhog Day
By Sadira Sittampalam
Palm Springs is a 2020 film directed by Max Barbakow which follows two strangers who find themselves stuck in a time loop. The strangers in question are the carefree Nyles, played by Andy Samberg, and the reluctant maid of honour Sarah, played by Cristin Milioti. This film is definitely not your standard rom-com, it has a depth to it that is often not seen in the genre and most importantly, doesn’t take itself too seriously which just makes this a nice, light and easy-to-watch flick.
Reinventing the time loops of Groundhog Day, this movie plays with what we already know in a pretty subversive way. The plot moves along really quickly and it is aware of the obvious rom-com tropes that it cannot avoid in the narrative, but manages to get through them fast enough for it to not be too overbearing. Moreover, being a pretty avid rom-com viewer, this movie was one that actually managed to surprise me in certain aspects of its narrative in ways that I don’t think anyone could expect. It was also really exciting watching this film as it navigated through the time loop concept - something I thought was pretty worn out - in a new and fresh way. Thus, effective at delivering exactly what it aims to, this film effortlessly gives you a multitude of genres that are seamlessly blended together from romance, comedy, and sci-fi to drama.
The comedy element of this film was also apt, perfectly synchronised with the story while not taking away from its drama. Moreover, since the time loop meant living life without consequence, the writer, Andy Siara, was really able to bring out his creative side with since there were practically limitless possibilities in what could happen. Siara delivered on this, coming up with some hilarious and outrageous scenarios that you only wish you could do in real life. Samberg is also a brilliant comedic actor and manages to make you laugh even in the minor reactions he has to other characters, making sure that this film is enjoyable from start to finish.
Another thing that was pretty special about this film was the way it highlighted the characters and their personalities with the philosophies they would adopt following the knowledge that they were stuck in a time loop. It did get very deep into this and even had certain parallels with how existence is basically a time loop, ultimately even coming up with a rather elegant solution that gave the film a pretty positive tone despite its depressing conclusions.
Samberg and Milioti were also a very dynamic duo, giving you a great back and forth with their gloriously symbiotic relationship that really does feel like two pieces of a puzzle fitting together. Milioti, who got her start in stage acting, is a pretty underrated actress who up to this point had not fully found her place on the screen. This movie really did change that showing everyone the entirety of her range that can be seen through every inch of her body and how she conducts herself. Meanwhile, Samberg, who isn’t your typical rom-com lead, shines as the ‘pretentious sad guy’ giving you a performance that exceeded expectations.
However, other than the writing and performances this movie didn’t really do anything else spectacular. Other elements were pretty standard which is slightly disappointing as it really would have been the cherry on top. The cinematography was pretty good giving you thosereally wide shots of the open desert landscape and nicely communicating the eternal summer of the place which did mildly connect with the eternal existence of the characters in their loop. Nevertheless, I can barely remember the soundtrack, if it did even have one, and the production was also pretty forgettable.
Palm Springs was just a really really good effort. It was in no means revolutionary, but it opens up the floor for other movies to really explore what they can make out of old ideas that seem pretty worn out. Designed to be fun and thought-provoking this movie succeeds greatly at doing just that. Thus, overall, this film was a really great variation of the genre that has become Groundhog Day. While other films simply added new things to the same concept, this movie really did try and do something different with it, and while it is far from perfect, it is really enjoyable and a pretty unexpected hit.