Andy Samberg’s affable, goofball presence has infused mainstream comedy with some much-needed inventiveness. Whether he’s rapping about boating escapades with The Lonely Island or playing a vain stuntman in Hot Rod, the former SNL-funnyman has operated on his own wave-length with inordinate success. Teaming with How I Met Your Mother star Cristin Milloti in the new Sundance comedy Palm Springs (Hulu and Neon gave the film the biggest acquisition deal of all time), the two concoct an irresistible pair in a satisfying twist on its familiar set-up.
Palm Springs follows Nyles (Andy Samberg), who embraces a nonchalant attitude as he’s stuck reliving the same day at a Palm Springs wedding. After he encounters reluctant maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milloti), Sarah gets sucked into the bizarre time loop, with the two bonding as they attempt to escape their altered reality.
Palm Springs is certainly not the first film to embrace the Groundhog Day set-up (Happy Death Day and Before I Fall utilized the premise well), yet Andy Siara’s self-aware presentation delivers a breath of fresh air to the concept. Along with crafting some colorfully over-the-top gags that take full advantage of the repetitive cycle, Siara works deftly to subvert comedic standards, often undercutting cliched plot beats with a wry sensibility. Director Max Barbakow implements a stylistic verve that matches the script seamlessly, depicting Palm Spring’s bright, sunkissed allure as a clever contrast to the character’s monotonous journey.
Most of the film’s splendors derive from watching Samberg and Milioti share the screen. Samberg delivers one of his finest big-screen performances to date, tuning his comedic persona aptly while still unearthing Nyles’ long-standing misery. It’s refreshing to see Samberg tone down his cartoonish-energy in favor of a more emotionally vulnerable performance, handling the sensitive frames with assured ability. For Milioti, her effortless command of the screen makes for a breakout performance, displaying natural charisma while humanizing Sarah’s complicated history. Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons steals multiple frames with his distinctly sardonic energy, as the beloved character actor continues to flex his well-rounded skillset.
Palm Spring’s rarely offers a dull moment in its tight 90-minute runtime, yet the end product can’t help feeling slightly inconsequential. Siara’s script offers some compelling ruminations on depression and the emptiness of a circular lifestyle, but the film’s dramatic portions can’t convey the full extent of these concepts. Refining the film’s substantive qualities would have elevated its cumbersome third-act set-up, properly allowing the character’s painful solace to render before the cathartic final frames.
Encapsulating the refreshingly light feel of a summer movie, Palm Springs constructs an assured reinvention of its tried and true set-up.
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