Barb Bretz has this week’s Friday Film Review. She’s got the low-down on “Palm Springs”, starring Andy Samberg, which premiered at Sundance 2020 and broke the record for the biggest sale in the history of the film festival.
Just knowing Andy Samberg starred in “Palm Springs” put it on my Must-See list at Sundance. Andy, former star of SNL and current star of TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, had starred with Rashida Jones in the charming indie film I loved called “Celeste and Jessie Forever”, which premiered at Sundance 2012.
Festival Director John Cooper described “Palm Springs” as being a Groundhog-Day-like film, and it was, but on steroids. It was more layered and complicated, much more dark and yet still very comical. The original screenplay was written by Andy Siara. And first-time director Max Barbakow proved his skills with this unique and ambitious project.
The setting is an isolated desert resort in California, the location of a destination wedding. Samberg and his co-star, Cristin Milioti, of TV’s “How I Met Your Mother” fame, are not the bride and groom. Samberg is Nyles, the date of one of the bridesmaids, and Milioti is Sarah, the sister of the bride, and extremely-reluctant maid of honor.
The term “hot mess” is the perfect descriptor for poor Sarah, whose drinking, hooking up and extremely off-kilter moral compass have led her into some very unsavory and possibly unforgiveable situations.
Sarah makes note of Nyles’ unconventional attitude and care-free actions from the very first event. But it isn’t until after the morning they hook up, we are clued in to the fact that Nyles has been living in a time-loop situation day after day, waking up to this same morning of the wedding. Now, an outraged Sarah has joined him in the loop.
The chemistry between the two is exceptional, albeit slightly explosive, as are the zany antics they employ attempting to add thrills to their repetitive existence. Their dare-devil escapades, life-threatening challenges, and a few attempted suicides are all uncommon elements in a typical rom-com.
Without being a spoiler, J. K. Simmons plays a wacky, sinister, heavily-armed antagonist, also caught up in the loop. Even he becomes a likable character.
The story is quirky but intelligent, fun and extremely engaging, as are the characters. There are lots of great quotes in the film, but the tag line on the poster sums it up—“Live like there’s no tomorrow” And for Nyles and Sarah, there isn’t a tomorrow. There’s only today, again and again and again.
“Palm Springs” is rated R and runs one hour and 30 madcapped minutes. This is Barb Bretz for KPCW. See you at the movies.