(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW SCORE: 46
5 out of 5 🐙
How much do I love this movie? Let me count the ways:
I’m a huge Groundhog Day fan. I was pissed when I heard this borrowed the main conceit (time loop). But it’s never the broad strokes that matter. It’s always the details. Always. Palm Springs, like Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, take that setting and make it their own.
Here’s the setup: Nyles (Andy Samberg) is stuck in a time loop. It’s one single day just like Groundhog day. The setting is a wedding in, you guessed it, Palm Springs. Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the bride’s older sister, against Nyles’ explicit warning, gets stuck in the same loop. So unlike Groundhog Day, we have at least 2 people stuck in the same situation. This adds a whole other layer of complexity and humor to an already pregnant dynamic.
Andy Samberg is the uber-goofy guy. He is a riot on Brooklyn 99 but he can bring real emotions and he does when he needs to on that fantastic sitcom. But here he tackles his biggest challenge: a man stuck in a time loop that has basically given up all hope for any meaning in life. He’s not sad anymore. He just is. He’s not really happy either. He just is. It’s a bizarre emotional state that Samberg nails. Cristin Milioti, when we first see her on screen, is standing by her sister at the wedding and she looks sadder than any bridesmaid has looked in the history of bridesmaids. She’s relentlessly depressed but adds insane (well, justified) fury to this initial state when she understands the Sisyphean hell she is stuck in. She is the darker, edgier, more sarcastic of the two and they play off their complimentary personalities very well and their romantic chemistry sings.
J.K. Simmons, who always, always, always delivers, contributes a small but bravura role that I cannot say more about.
The philosophical discussions feel real and not set up. They feel like philosophical discussions two normal people would have if they were stuck in an unreal situation. You can see the influence of the best sitcom to make philosophy accessible and funny, The Good Place, all over this joint. The dialogue is just practically flawless and rich with hilarious jokes, soul crushing moments, and a thousand rapiers of wit. There are plenty of scenes that, like Groundhog Day, milk the time loop situation for ridiculous laughs. But there are also ones that ground the movie in the relationship between Nyles and Sarah. Andy Siara has written a masterpiece. Max Barbakow brings all these amazing elements together and paces the film swiftly and satisfyingly. In an era of bloated movie run times, Palm Springs comes in at just under 90 minutes and shows that incredible things can be said in less than 2 hours.
As you might expect, fleeing the loop is a main aspect of the story. But Siara and Barbakow add sharp, confusing, and rich edges to this quest. I love Groundhog Day. It’s one of my favorite movies. I love Bill Murray. He’s one of my favorite actors. And I’m not saying this is better than Groundhog Day. They are different. They are both perfect in their own way. But this one takes the metaphysical aspects mostly avoided in Groundhog Day, to quote the greatest guitarist ever, Nigel Tufnel, and blasts them “one louder.”
It just blew me away. I really was just expecting a silly romantic comedy. It is so much more.
There will be dinosaurs.
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)