Palm Springs (2020)

All of the time loop films of the last year or two — Happy Death Day 2UBoss LevelThe Map of Tiny Perfect ThingsKoko-di Koko-daGame Over, The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, Russian DollSee You Yesterday — all follow that Groundhog Day-style approach of the same day happening over and over again. Of course, we can also point to 1990s 12:01 PM, which part of the Showtime 30-Minute Movie entries.

The idea is pretty rich and particularly so this year, where it really does feel like every day is exactly the same as we’re trapped in our homes. Of course, like all movie trends, this one has seemingly been done to death, but can Palm Springs — a movie that escapes my radar when it played Sundance in 2020 and then went to Hulu in July — do it better?

This movie succeeds because of the likability of its two leads, Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, who have discovered a cave that allows them to repeat the same day endlessly. I kind of loved how this film didn’t seem like it was about that at all until JK Simmons murders Samberg to end the day. The trailer spoils this, I spoiled this and now, we must all realize what we’ve done.

Actually, the spoiler is just fine. The real beauty of this movie is how the characters actually grow instead of just experiencing day after day. It also benefits from a rich cast, which includes a great cameo from physicist Clifford V. Johnson, Dale Dickey, Jena Friedman, June Squibb (who was also great in another wedding movie, Table 19), Peter Gallagher, Camila Mendes, Tyler Hoechlin (who played the kid in Road to Perdition) and Meredith Hagner.

This is a film that matter of factly gets across very open sexuality — what would you do if you could sleep with the same people over and over?* — and explores what a time loop centered around a wedding really would be like. I really loved how Simmons’ character comes in and out of the story, along with the very real emotional damage these characters suffer as their bodies are often destroyed multiple times.

Director Max Barbakow hasn’t done many full-length films and neither has writer Andy Siara. I’m truly excited to see what they do next, as this movie could have been completely saccharine and instead became something wonderful. It’s surprising at nearly every turn and quite emotional.

Now, back to living the same day I’ve been living since last March.

*According to IMDB, Samberg’s character was trapped in the loop for somewhere between forty and forty million years.

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