By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Palm Springs is a fun and colourful take on the time-loop sub-genre which has been poked and prodded in every which way for decades since Groundhog Day, but this one is particularly memorable. If you’re looking for a summer flick with some light laughs, this one is for you. In saying that though, there’s also something wonderfully cynical and bittersweet about it – like a rainbow cupcake with a pinch of salt.
After a freak accident, wedding guest Nyles (Andy Samberg) becomes trapped in a time loop where he is forced to live through a wedding celebration over and over again. Although somehow content, his summer paradise is questioned when maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) soon joins in on the fun.
This is the feature debut of director Max Barbakow who does remarkably well at pulling off an original take on the time-loop movie which has seen a surge in recent years and made waves through various genres and mediums. From Netflix series Russian Doll to the Happy Death Day horror franchise, this sub-genre has done fairly well for itself. But what is it about repeating the same day again and again that captures our attention so much?
Is it that we get a chance to fix our mistakes? Or simply live a life freely without consequence where nothing really ‘matters’? Barbakow delves into both of these but mainly the latter. Nyles blissfully lives in ignorance attending the same wedding for all eternity, whether drinking beer in his beach shorts by the pool or attempting to sleep with wedding guests. Although painted as a typical ‘bro’ on paper, Samberg does bring an element of wisdom and old age to Nyles’ character as he takes newcomer Sarah for an unconventional tour of the loop. It’s probably one of the SNL actor’s best roles to date.
As the duo drift slowly but surely into existential crisis, secrets begin to unfold, and the wedding becomes a venue of soulless but comedic torture. While Nyles is determined to live in the now, the boozy Sarah, played brilliantly by Milioti, dwells on past regrets and stops at nothing to escape. She even starts to study quantum physics. Imagine if you could study an entire degree while technically not losing a single day? Sign me up!
It’s also refreshing how the film addresses relationships and sexuality. When discussing who has slept with who at the wedding, Nyles casually mentions that he unexpectedly slept with a male wedding guest just to try it out and regards him as ‘a nice guy’. No controversy and no exploitative humour. This is probably one of the most likable male characters I’ve seen this year.
Accompanied by pizza-shaped pool toys, burritos, thousands of cans of beer and the dreamy synth soundtrack by Cornbread Compton, Palm Springs feels like a colourful tribute to summer films of the ’80s but with a hint of nihilism making it incredibly relatable. I think we can expect good things from newcomer director Max Barbakow.
Palm Springs is now showing in Czech cinemas.