TDuring this puzzling and unsettling time, trapped inside as a deadly pandemic rages on, many of us have found ourselves compulsively and strangely gorging on films that confront the practicalities and horrors involved in a sort of now too familiar apocalypse. Not just those that suddenly seem timely, like the viral thriller-turned-compelling docudrama Contagion, but also those that cover a similar global panic and, ultimately, solidarity in the face of natural disasters, alien invasions and other life-changing events. . What goes on outside has made the fantastic stories that take place inside all the closer, all the easier to identify, a Hollywood make-believe world blurring into real life.
But ironically, it also made the simple, more grounded pleasures of cinematic romance seem almost otherworldly in comparison. Not just the logistics of it (seeing two strangers kissing without plexiglass protection between them made me wince the first few months) but also the carefree, all-consuming joy of it, as if it was entirely evacuating the many. stress of the world for a fun-cute encounter would be any way possible this year. Romantic comedies suddenly felt like relics of curiosities, which many had admittedly felt for a while, a dusty and maligned genre that has mostly been relegated to Netflix in recent years. But before the pandemic, about two months before we locked our doors, Sundance history was written when Neon and Hulu teamed up to buy Palm Springs, an animated hipster wedding romantic comedy with a twist, paying $ 22 million. alleged dollars, a record sale for the festival. The sky-high price tag, the town’s speech in January, reflected a digital fanbase awakened for the genre that had been spat out by a savvy streamer aware of the eyeballs he would automatically reach online.
There was something else though: that aforementioned twist. This is what helped set the film apart at Sundance (I doubt that high amount would have been spat out otherwise) and unintentionally, when it released six months later, actually makes the bizarre romantic comedy that feels oddly right now. , its supernatural quirks normalizing the surreal sight of two people flirting and kissing without wearing masks.
The setup is pretty much familiar: two unconnected guests at a wedding find love. Sarah (Cristin Milioti) is the bride’s sister, a cynic who drinks and fucks too much (something she admits with a mixture of pride and shame) while Nyles (Andy Samberg) is such a bored wanderer of the festivities that ‘he makes a drunken scene just to liven things up. At the end of the night, they strip naked under the stars, but events take a shocking turn when Nyles is killed, revealing a time loop at Groundhog Day in which Sarah is now trapped with him. Every day starts out the same, but how it ends is up to them.
The wake up, flirt, drink, die, repeat formula is a variation on a gadget that has become less new over time (recent years have seen an increase with the Russian Doll movies and Happy Death Day using the structure) but Writer Andy Siara is armed with an awareness of this and his inventive addition to the subgenre provides some nifty tweaks. When we meet Samberg’s character he’s already been stuck in the loop for an unknowable amount of time, alone and bored, having exhausted most of his options (including having sex with one of the groomsmen, revealed with a refreshing candor) and among the goofball antics, there is an obscurity in his situation, with a few scattered lines and a particularly frightening moment of dishonesty hinting at what Palm Springs, the thriller would have looked like.
But things remain for the most part light, with first-time director Max Barbakow preferring silliness to anything too salty, and it is in the early stages of the pair indulging in some reckless, cartoonish fun together that the movie really flies (including literally on a fun plane – mishap based). Milioti and Samberg are a well-matched duo of disillusioned heavy drinkers, triggering a bristling chemistry of screw-up that inevitably mellows and, as it does, there’s time for more in-depth and skillful discussions of the boundaries. about love and the importance of knowing and accepting someone’s past.
But as quantum physics kicks in and Siara begins to prepare for a frenzied finale, the plot starts to feel a bit too much scrappy, and even at 90 tidy minutes, the film starts to lose our investment. The sharpness begins to fade and the laughter slowly fades, but so many good favors are stored up by the lively and witty pleasures of the first two acts that it’s partly forgiven.
It’s also the specific weirdness of the world they inhabit (although arguably the strangest thing about this is that neither of them ever make reference to Harold Ramis’ defining time-loop comedy) which makes Palm Springs feel less disposable, more notable right now, and easier to believe in the genre. While much can be derived from memory after the credits roll, repetition has become such a pronounced part of our lives right now that the indirect satisfaction we get from watching two people turn their restriction into sticks of entertainment. It’s a wacky, drunken escape piece and although the romantic comedy isn’t entirely return, despite think pieces assuring us that this is the case, Palm Springs emphatically reminds us, once again, that this is never really going to go away.