Time loop movies almost always work, no matter what genre they’re in. From straight-up comedy like Groundhog Day to action-adventure like Edge of Tomorrow to horror like Happy Death Day, the concept is endlessly entertaining to see how characters deal with the time loop and, ultimately, how they get out of it.
Palm Springs is another great addition to the sub-genre because it never tries to be much more than it needs to be. Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) are both guests at a wedding in Palm Springs. Nyles is the boyfriend of bridesmaid Misty (Meredith Hagner) and Sarah is the sister of the bride, Tala (Camila Mendes).
Nyles, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, doesn’t fit in at the formal wedding, and certainly doesn’t act like it. He and Sarah hit it off and spend most of the night together, winding up out in the desert. Through a series of events that are best experienced while watching, the two of them end up living the day of wedding over and over again, with seemingly no way out.
Directed by Max Barbakow and written by Andy Siara, both of whom are making their feature film debuts, the movie takes the novel approach of having more than one person experience the time loop at the same time. This allows the characters to play off each other even more than usual, as each can understand exactly what the other person is going through.
The setting of the wedding also makes it greatly engaging, as the stresses of the bride, groom (Tyler Hoechlin), parents (Peter Gallagher and Jacqueline Obradors), and more combine with that of Nyles and Sarah for some spectacularly funny situations. Given how the concept of the time loop is so strange in and of itself, the filmmakers are also able to play with some far-out scenarios to broaden the humor.
As one might expect when two characters spend hundreds (thousands? millions?) of days stuck together, a romantic comedy of sorts becomes part of the story. However, it is obviously atypical of the type of rom-com we normally get, as both of them grapple with not only the effects of the time loop, but also with their positions in the world as unmarried people in their late thirties/early forties.
Samberg and Milioti have immediate chemistry together, each seeming to know exactly how to react to the other at all times. The two TV veterans have experience playing up broad situations, and they make the most out of almost every scene. The supporting cast keeps things rolling, especially J.K. Simmons as an uncle with a temper and June Squibb, who pops up with the perfect bon mot every now and again.
Coming in at the ideal 90 minutes, Palm Springs gives you everything you could want out of this type of film. The characters are relatable, the situations are wild and tons of fun, and it exits stage left before overplaying its hand.
Palm Springs is streaming exclusively on Hulu. It will also play in select drive-in theaters.