By Bradley Lane
Popularized in the 1993 Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day, the idea of a time loop has captivated international audiences since its introduction. From arthouse critical darlings like Primer and Run Lola Run to blockbuster genre films like Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day, the allure of a story structure so simple it just repeats itself over and over is simply irresistible to screenwriters. So then, with a proliferation of these films in the current market the only reason to produce one is if you can figure how to differentiate your take on the idea from the trove of pre-existent material. This is exactly where Hulu’s newest exclusive, Palm Springs begins to show signs it might fall short of creating its own identity. Despite this, the film is consistently entertaining, but does little to distinguish itself from the tired trope, ultimately making it feel disposable.
Starring internet darling Andy Samberg and the criminally underworked Christin Milioti as Nyles and Sarah, Palm Springs takes place in the titular town as the characters are gathered to celebrate Sarah’s sister’s wedding. Upon their meeting at the reception they hit it off and in the process of getting to know one another, Sarah is accidentally entered to the time loop Nyles was, unbeknownst to her, already stuck in. What follows is a predictable, if not entertaining, film about love, familial relationships and the nature of the universe.
The concept of two people trying to make it through eternity with one another is rife with potential for facilitating all kinds of philosophical messages about modern life, relationships, or just about any existential ideology. This is precisely why it is so frustrating then, that Palm Springs essentially boils down to an extremely by the number’s romantic comedy. Proved as the far-out time travel narrative device is quickly dismissed as mere window dressing for sickly-sweet romanticism.
It isn’t all bad though; the story maintains a quick pace so that I never found myself bored during the film. In fact, throughout the film I was consistently entertained by the genuine intimacy between Samberg and Milioti’s characters. Their evolution from broken and jaded to open and emotionally venerable is admittedly well written. However, its fatal flaw is that whatever message the filmmakers set out to communicate is drowned in romantic platitudes and comes up feeling short on actual substance.
Palm Springs is by no means a bad film, just a disappointing one. It is absolutely a good time while it’s on, but the film’s lack of ability to find its own voice might leave you struggling to remember much of anything about it just a couple days after viewing. Palm Springs is available to stream on Hulu. – 3/5 stars