Usually when you least expect it, comes a winner out of the box. Palm Springs, directed by Max Barbakow, is a sweet chill out. It’s a spin on the Groundhog Day concept, seeped through a vanilla romance. The least you know, the better.
Clocking at a mere 90-minutes, it is best to see it straight off than fiddle away reading its plot. All that’s necessary to know is that the loverboy is played by Andy Samberg and the lady-love is portrayed by Christin Milioti. Together, they twiddle their thumbs a lot, for they get stuck in a time loop. A few revelations, eventually, establish the ground for a definitive ending.
I was inconspicuous to this film, and it worked in my favor. The trailer, as I watched afterward, turned out over-expository. Most of the film’s entertaining bits are present in it. Hence, if you are also alien to Palm Springs, you have saved yourself a sprightly time.
The film, in all sincerity, is a late-night snack. It’s an original blend of contemporary romance and sci-fi, where surprisingly, the latter wins over the former. As you expect from such films, the romantic ingredients are generally enough. Palm Springs doesn’t have it in full. Both Samberg and Milioti individually rock their parts. But as a pair, there aren’t enough moments for them to set their chemistry afloat.
It mainly has to do with the second act being relatively short. While the film starts strongly, with plenty of absurd humor (major credit to Samberg’s antics), the narrative soon courses into familiar territory. The sci-fi element kicks in, and the time loop conventions (Live, Die, Repeat) begin to play out. From thereon, the pace slows down for the much needed intimate moments. But the story jams another twist too soon that refrains the romance from developing further. By the end, the characters only manage to register themselves individually, and not as a pair.
Writing a few more lovey-dovey scenes could have imbued the necessary charm. Nevertheless, the sudden shifts do not entirely ruin the flow, for the time-loop twist is handled very nicely. The science is easier to understand, with the exact amount of rationality provided. It is not a stumper like Edge of Tomorrow, or preposterous like Before I Fall. You can get the why and how without needing to go through explainer videos.
Besides, the film never takes itself too seriously. The nonchalant tone is consistent from start to last, and no attempt is made to supersede the writing smarts of Groundhog Day. However, through a few sublime life-lessons, Palm Springs does manage to set itself apart in its genre. The subtext powerfully underlines the significance of existence, and the essentiality of human beings to have a social life.
The film also emphasizes the positive influence of love. In a very symbolic moment, the pair sees a fleet of dinosaurs while having a close conversation. Extraneous to the story, the scene attributes to how larger-than-life the world becomes once a person experiences love.
For all of us, enduring a long-drawn period of isolation, it is more than appropriate to get a film that permeates so much pudding in such a short runtime. Palm Springs merits my recommendation. You can see it on Hulu.
Rating: 3 / 5
Note: The film is not for people under 18. Includes sexual content and swearing.