The directorial debut feature firm of Max Barbakow, Palm Springs stars Jake Samberg and Christin Milioti as Nyles and Sarah. The two meet on 9 November at the wedding of Sarah’s sister Tala. After hitting it off, they become trapped in a time loop so they repeatedly wake up on 9 November.
At the start of Palm Springs, Nyles has been trapped for a while and is now living a ‘meaningless’ life of beers, burritos and the odd visit from the hate-filled Roy (JK Simmons). His nonchalance initially aggravates Sarah, who’s furiously forced to repeatedly experience her sister’s wedding. However, the joy of Palm Springs manifests as she embraces the chaos with Nyles, which sees them enjoy endless days at a stranger’s pool or random dancing at the local bar. Their blossoming relationship fills the film with an infectious joy that makes it hard not to have fun with them.
When emotions eventually start to come in play, they face the fact that their new lives are not totally meaningless. This causes them to re-evaluate their friendship and realise that they need to also consider aspects outside of the loop. This slows down the film’s frenetic pace but gives audiences a chance to breathe, as well as witness the downsides of the leads’ carefree attitudes.
On paper, Palm Springs seems like an ordinary romance. The beer-slinging man hits on the maid of honour at her sister’s wedding, and they are about to fool around…until she finds herself in a time loop with him. It sounds like an offbeat sci-fi but Andy Siara’s screenplay doesn’t overly indulge in the science. Although this just leaves questions unanswered, this essentially makes the romance the film’s focal point, with the only science being the chemistry between its leads. The spark between Samberg and Milioti takes their characters’ connection onto another level while Palm Springs’ sun-kissed surroundings reinforce its sense of escapism.
Thanks to the strong leads and screenplay, Barbakow directs Palm Springs with confidence. When all these factors are combined, this reassures audiences of the film’s charm, allowing them to embrace its silliness and the slow-burning romance of its protagonists.
Overall, Palm Springs is an audience-pleasing debut for Barbakow. With Samberg and Milioti stealing the show on and off the dancefloor, it is essentially Groundhog Day with piña coladas.
Director: Max Barbakow; Andy Siara (screenwriter)
Stars: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, JK Simmons
Runtime: 90 minutes