Palm Springs Review

Palm Springs Review

Since the middle of March for millions of people it has felt like every day is the same, stuck in a time loop that seems like it will never end. So it feels appropriate that a Groundhog Day-style rom-com should be released now, six months on from its Sundance debut where it become the most expensive ever purchase at the festival (by a mere 69 cents).

It’s no spoiler to mention that Palm Springs is a time loop film as it’s revealed in the trailer (it’s advisable to only watch 30-60 seconds to avoid anything else) and it would be a tough ask to review the film without giving it a mention. The Groundhog Day comparisons are also inescapable as director Max Barbakow follows a similar premise, the major twist being that rather than one person perpetually running the hamster wheel there are two (which is also in the trailer).

These are Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti), two singles attending a wedding in a remote Palm Springs hotel (the wedding is important thematically). Nyles’ casual approach to life doesn’t make him the best catch, while even as the maid of honour and sister of the bride Sarah doesn’t seem overjoyed to be there. As you’d expect, they are drawn to one another, although end up spending far more time together than originally planned. There’s also an inexplicably angry older gentleman called Roy (J.K. Simmons) chasing Nyles around that on first sight doesn’t make any sense – until the gaps are filled in later.

Samberg is the Stiller-esque everyman, although whether it’s his style of comedy, acting style or personality coming through (or a combination of all three), his delivery comes across as a little too smug and ‘in the know’. Which is not to say the film is light on laughs as there are plenty of funny moments, with Milioti claiming many of the best lines, pitching her exasperation and disbelief at events at just the right level. Ultimately there is an imbalance between the number of gags and the fleshing out of these two characters, with the rising joke count crowding out any reason to care about their tricky situation.

At first it may seem a little difficult to place a finger on exactly why, but the second half of Palm Springs drags in comparison to the first, even with a tight 90-minute runtime. Perhaps it’s because once the excitement of the big reveal has fizzled out and we settle into the rhythm of their routine, ideas about the value of monogamy and the emptiness of a life spent alone are only vaguely touched upon, while the romantic element of Nyles and Sarah’s relationship doesn’t hold much weight at all. But if we take away the magnifying glass there's no doubt the film will play well on Hulu and given the sparse release calendar it will likely go down as one of the year's most memorable comedies.

Palm Springs will be available to watch on Hulu from July 10.

Overall

A nice twist to the time loop comedy that has some good gags, but underdeveloped writing leaves the two leads unable to find that all-important connection to click things into place.

6

out of 10

Palm Springs (2020)
Dir: Max Barbakow | Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Tyler Hoechlin | Writers: Andy Siara, Andy Siara (story by), Max Barbakow (story by)

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