We’ve seen Groundhog Day as a gritty alien-invasion movie (Edge of Tomorrow), an amusing pseudo-horror flick (Happy Death Day and its sequel), and even as a sappy bit of holiday cheese (12 Dates of Christmas), so what could possibly be left to do do in the world of infinite time loop movies?
How about throwing Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti into one together (there’s a first) and building a sharp and clever rom-com around them?
Hulu’s latest original Palm Springs is exactly that—an original and fresh take on an idea that, by this point, should be getting more stale than the ol’ “Die Hard on a [fill in the blank]” trope. Samberg stars as Nyles, a lovable schlub who has, for God knows how long, been stuck in the same day at a resort wedding in the California desert. When we pick up the story, he’s delivering a particularly poignant speech at the event, relieving sister-of-the-bride Sarah (Milioti) from the duty. They bond afterward and retreat to the desert for extra-curricular activities but are interrupted by Roy (J.K. Simmons), who shoots Nyles with a bow and arrow in what could loosely be described as an unfortunate archery incident.
Any hope we have of understanding what in the bejeezus is going on gets further complicated when the wounded Nyles crawls into a cave bathed in a mysterious red glow while warning Sarah to stay far away. She ignores him and unknowingly gets sucked into the same loop Nyles has been stuck in for years. And though he has resigned himself (and even learned to appreciate) living life in one day, Sarah doesn’t take as kindly to it, to say the least.
If that’s not enough of a mind-bending concept to get you fully invested in Palm Springs, first-time feature film scribe Andy Siara ups the ante by adding several more layers as we go (most of which would constitute spoilers), keeping the film flying along as it answers some questions and raises dozens more. Fear not, though—this thing is as unique (and ultimately satisfying) as they come.
Newbie director Max Barbakow proves his worth early on, guiding Samberg and Milioti (who share a fantastic chemistry) through what could have been a confusing and muddled mess to instead offer up a sharp twist on a plot that had no business being reworked for the umpteenth time. But the concept of having two people grapple with the time loop (one of whom is a seasoned pro) provides just enough of an added dimension that the film safely coasts across the finish line.
Whether Nyles and Sarah are orchestrating different ways to kill themselves, pulling off elaborate pranks, or even choreographing a happy little dance number to perform in the local biker bar (to hilarious effect), they make the most of their time in purgatory together. And the addition of the rock-solid Simmons as the antagonist (as if their being stuck in a time loop isn’t bad enough) makes it all that much more fun.
Proving that there’s always a way to add a new wrinkle to a been-there-done-that concept, Palm Springs lands as a charming, delightful, and completely entertaining twist in the long line of Groundhog Day-inspired films. In a time when every day seems to blur together anyway, a wholly inventive live-die-repeat movie feels just about perfect.