“Palm Springs” is a fantastic jolt of life to a tired time loop genre

“Palm Springs” is a Hulu-exclusive film that was directed by Max Barbakow and stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. The film is about Sarah, the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding, getting trapped in a time loop with another man at the wedding Nyles, and the pair’s adventure through living the same day over and over again.

Have there been a whole lot of time loop movies dating back to “Groundhog Day”? Absolutely. And if anyone should be sick of those type of movies, it is the guy who sat through one of them for 24 hours straight on two separate occasions, but I had a whole lot of optimism about this one in particular after viewing the trailer and hearing that Hulu paid a Sundance record $22 million for the rights to it.

The Good

That optimism ended up being warranted. “Palm Springs” manages to take a tired concept and breathe a whole bunch of life into it, thanks in large part to its two leads. Samberg and Milioti are both superb in this movie, bringing loads of energy and charm, both individually and as a pair. 

Samberg specifically impressed the hell out of me, utilizing his typical humor but into a role that asked much more from him than usual, and I think he stepped up to the plate in a big way. Milioti is someone I only know from her brief stints in “Black Mirror,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but she is excellent here, both with her comedic talent but with showing the true harsh realities of having to relive the same day over and over.

Past Samberg and Milioti, the movie benefits greatly from the supporting role of J.K. Simmons, who is just fantastic as Roy. His character brings such a key extra element to the film, and Simmons does a great job at bringing him to life.

Andy Siara, who makes his feature film debut as a screenwriter, puts together a tremendous script here, perfectly balancing the comedy with some needed dramatics from time to time, while also bringing in a meta sort of humor that fits the characters perfectly. The comedy is a major plus to the movie, but it is not the only thing the film has, and both sides are thanks to how Siara wrote the dialogue.

Siara’s script goes excellently with Barbakow’s direction, in which he is also making his full-length debut. What a debut it is, with Barbakow showing a lot of maturity early on in how to correctly develop characters and move the story along without forcing anything, and to do so while always making it entertaining.

Quyen Tran’s cinematography is also great in how he uses the desert and the extremes with the colors, and some of her shots were just stunning, and were especially surprising to see in a comedy that didn’t necessarily need them, but absolutely benefitted from them.

What impressed me the most was how little “Palm Springs” ever felt stale considering the movies that have tried to hit on this same concept. “Groundhog Day” is a classic, sure, but this movie feels different in so many ways to that and simply borrows on ideas while expanding and, in a lot of ways, adds much more to it in ways I did not necessarily expect.

The Bad

The only real negative is that the movie leaves a lot of unanswered questions, many of which are likely intentional. It is a time loop movie, so of course there are going to be these questions, but the film also feels more rooted in science than almost any of its type before it, so the questions I have feel more answerable than usual, which made it just a bit more frustrating when the movie ended without some solutions.

Speaking of science, I’m no scientist, and I would tend to think it is a difficult task to try to explain anything involving a time loop. The film mostly does a good job, but I did find some of the third act to be a bit less exciting than the rest of the movie because of some of these decisions.

Conclusion

“Palm Springs” is a blast of a time that benefits from strong direction and writing, especially for a pair making their debuts, while also being helped along brilliantly by Samberg, Milioti and Simmons. There was no reason to think another time loop movie needed to exist, but this film changed my mind on that quickly, and was just so much fun to watch thanks to a refreshing new feel on an old, previously fatigued genre.

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