The plot of Palm Springs follows thirtysomething Nyles (Andy Samberg) who, after attending a wedding in titular Palm Springs, falls through a cosmical crack in the space-time continuum and is doomed to repeat the same day forever. It’s a desert-themed reimagining of Groundhog Day, and for those familiar with the Bill Murray classic, Nyles follows much the same path as Phil as he becomes more jaded and apathetic about spending every waking minute repeating the same day.
But that’s where Palm Springs deviates from its 90’s counterpart. The film has a lot more to offer than charmingly awkward humour and adorable lead actors with Disney character eyes. Director Max Barbakow skilfully blends millennial humour with intelligence and enough angst to keep the audience engaged in an otherwise fairly familiar story.
In one of his many journeys through the wedding reception, Nyles meets Sarah (Cristin Milioti), Maid of Honour, older sister of the bride (Camila Mendes) and all round black sheep of the family. The two drink, flirt and briefly hook up before Nyles is shot in the back with an arrow.
Turns out Nyles isn’t alone in the strange time warp life. The mysterious Roy (J.K. Simmons) shows up and chases Nyles through the time portal which we see is located in a cave in the desert. Concerned for Nyles (as you would be), Sarah follows him and is also pulled into the vortex, waking up to discover she too is now living the same day over and over.
After the usual ‘kill ourselves to wake up’ scenes you would expect, Sarah and Nyles begin to embrace their shared repetitive existence. They frolic through the wedding day and reception, cheating both death and time before eventually developing deep feelings for each other. Samberg and Milioti play very well off each other, and have just the right blend of intelligence and humour to create real chemistry between the characters.
Of course, drama issues, secrets are shared and eventually Sarah looks for a way out of their predicament in a process that involves some rapid education on quantum physics – because what is time? – and some shady business with a goat and dynamite.
Overall Palm Springs is a refreshingly funny romp that has taken the best bits of similar stories but built on them to create something enjoyable and ultimately, better.
Palm Springs is available on Amazon Prime Video