Ever since ‘Groundhog Day’ came out in 1993, people have been chasing the “Time Loop” trope. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, ‘Happy Death Day’, and ‘Source Code’ are just a few that have shown off their own takes on the day that repeats for an eternity. Many of these films focus on the character understanding their surroundings and gaining more information about the people around them. They first must understand themselves before they can escape the loop. I’m a bit of a sucker for this trope. The comedic ones get to work with creative concepts while the action ones make you feel like you’re in a video game.
Palm Springs takes that same concept of a time loop story with a slightly similar comedic tone to ‘Groundhog Day.’ Where this movie differs is that of the main character, Nyle (played by Andy Samberg), has already been stuck in this time loop for an eternity. He has done everything you can possibly think of doing in this situation. Oftentimes in time loops, the journey of discovery someone goes through as they realize the situation they are in is central to the plot. Instead, you meet Nyle through the eyes of Sarah, played by Cristin Miliota. Sarah is the underachieving sister of the bride at the wedding they are attending. She immediately takes interest in the oddly confident Nyle. The two of them ditch the wedding and events of the evening lead Sarah to getting trapped in this time loop with Nyle.
Nyle helps Sarah come to terms with living eternity on the same day. They spend a lot of their existence wasting time and coming up with wild scenarios involving the residents of Palm Springs. The scenes where the two of them figure out fantastic ways to waste their days away are the highlights of the film. Watching Nyle and Sarah grow close through these scenes is really charming. Samberg and Miliota’s on-screen chemistry feels natural in both comedic and dramatic scenes. This is all topped off by the frightening role of Roy, a jaded man played by J.K. Simmons, whose one goal is to make Nyle suffer at all costs.
Although the highlights of the movie are these goofy scenarios, more dramatic notes of the story focus on the character development of Nyle and Sarah. Both are relatively shitty people, avoiding painful decisions or memories. Big pivot-points in the movie involve them confronting these flaws together. Although you can see the progression of these characters, the decisions they make and how they come to terms with them just doesn’t land. They don’t reckon with their past actions in any meaningful way. The last act of the movie seems to just brush off their imperfections that caused them so much internal angst in the past. There is an attempt in a few specific scenes to reference their transformation into better people, but it feels rushed and less meaningful than some of the more emotionally impactful scenes we got earlier in the film.
I like what Palm Springs has done with their time loop story. It’s hard to live up to a movie like ‘Groundhog Day’, but ‘Palm Springs’ was truly a refreshing take on the concept. What really sells it for me is the fact that I originally hit play to see another time loop movie, but my favorite parts involved the impressive on-screen chemistry between Miliota and Samberg. That chemistry takes this movie from a simple trope to a worthy romcom in a fun and creative setting.