Palm Springs Review: On the 9th of November, Nyles isn’t exactly excited to be at Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe’s (Tyler Hoechlin) wedding. His girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) is the bride’s maid of honour, but her relationship with Nyles is far from the best. At the wedding, he intervenes when Sarah (Cristin Milioti), Tala’s sister and bridesmaid, hesitates to give a speech, impressing her in the bargain. When they leave the party for a clandestine rendezvous in the desert, Nyles gets attacked by a mysterious archer. Hurt and on the run from the attacker, he escapes into a strange cave. Ignoring his warnings, Sarah does not know what awaits her as she follows him in.
Similar in concept to Groundhog Day (1993), ‘Palm Springs’ revisits the stuck-in-a-loop premise, but that’s where the comparisons end. The narrative begins with Nyles already trapped in this ‘box’. Instead, we get to experience Sarah’s reactions as she realizes her eternal fate. The results are alarming, hilarious, and baffling all at once. Tonality-wise, ‘Palm Springs’ plays to the strengths of its lead pair. Even when its subject matter gets metaphysical, Andy Samberg’s comedic timing and organic charm keep the film relatively light. His effortless chemistry with Cristin Milioti makes them a great pair to root for as they live out the same day repeatedly. As a companion to Samberg’s typical yet endearing man-child persona in Nyles, Milioti’s Sarah does more of the emotional processing of their predicament in an outstanding performance. As Roy, J.K. Simmons also defies expectations of his secondary character’s purpose.
This brings a refreshingly different perspective to a ‘love story’ that isn’t as clear-cut as it initially appears to be. Credit to both Max Barbakow and Andy Siara, who co-wrote this unusual story together. Barbakow directs Siara’s ingenious screenplay while deftly balancing the film’s light-hearted moments along with its philosophical musings. Although there are a few meandering segments in the second half, they barely make a dent in an otherwise thought-provoking, genre-bending, and unconventional romantic comedy.