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‘Palm Springs’ Review: Step Aside ‘Groundhog Day’

Dir. Max Barbakow — 4.5 Stars

Cristin Milioti and Andy Sandberg in Hulu original "Palm Springs."
Cristin Milioti and Andy Sandberg in Hulu original "Palm Springs." By Courtesy of Jessica Perez/Hulu
By Nell G. Cunningham, Crimson Staff Writer

If “Groundhog Day” were rewritten to be set at a destination wedding, it would probably look a lot like “Palm Springs,” a comedy movie and Hulu original. While attending a wedding in Palm Springs, Nyles (Andy Samberg) stumbles into a magical cave, causing him to fall into a time loop and repeat the same day over and over again. On one of his repeated nights, Nyles accidentally leads Sarah (Cristin Milioti), a fellow wedding guest, into the cave. From then on, both are forced to relive the same day forever; eventually, they realize that they might have a way out after all. But will they take it? “Palm Springs” is an absolute delight from start to finish and will have the viewer laughing while contemplating themes about time, purpose, and companionship.

From beginning to end, “Palm Springs” is visually outstanding. The film utilizes brightly colored costumes and sets that pop against the muted green and brown tones of the Palm Springs landscape. Because the plot revolves around a repeated day, Nyles and Sarah only have a few outfits for the entire duration of the movie. Before even mentioning its narrative value, the fact that “Palm Springs” is aesthetically pleasing is an immediate added bonus.

“Palm Springs” is also delightfully witty from beginning to end and fully leans into the absurdity inherent in a narrative about an infinite time loop. If the magical cave isn’t indication enough of the film’s utter goofiness, one should look no further for proof than the character of Roy (J.K. Simmons). Early in the film, it is revealed that Sarah is not the only person that Nyles accidentally led into the cave and an endless life of repetition. After finding himself in the cave during a drunken night with Nyles, Roy is so angry due to his new fate that he makes it his mission to seek revenge. In this world of repeated time in which, even after one dies, they are simply rebooted to the beginning of the day, Roy can kill Nyles as many times as he wants. In fact, the first time we meet Roy is a scene in which he is in the middle of shooting Nyles with a crossbow. This dynamic between the two characters is undeniably silly and just one example of the many ways in which “Palm Springs” leans into the absurdity of its premise.

What makes “Palm Springs” truly special is its ability to tug at the heartstrings of the viewer despite it being a thoroughly comedic film. At its heart, this film is about two people who come to find joy in the simple mundanity of each other’s company. At the end of the film, when Nyles and Sarah are considering attempting to escape the time loop, Sarah begins to doubt whether or not the relationship that they’ve formed will be able to survive the real world. Concerned, she asks Nyles, “What if we get sick of each other?” He responds simply: “We’re already sick of each other. It’s the best.” Underscoring the more silly aspects of the pair’s relationship is a clear emotional bond which Samberg and Milioti convey beautifully. Beyond its comedic flare, “Palm Springs” is a film about human nature and what we mean to each other, making it wonderfully relatable and poignant.

In the wake of “Groundhog Day” and similar narratives, “Palm Springs” is in no way revolutionary in its use of the time loop trope. However, the film stands out in its own ways. From its visual beauty to its goofy comedic style and its emotional resonance, the film is truly sensational in its own right. “Palm Springs” is a movie that can be watched over and over again, whether it’s for a laugh, a fun plot, or a reminder of the simple joy that can come from spending all of your time with another person, over and over again.

—Staff writer Nell G. Cunningham can be reached at nell.cunningham@thecrimson.com.

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