Marvel’s Agent Carter and Palm Springs (2020)

Palm Springs (2020)

Hal: Whenever a film goes to the well of a the character-living-the-same-day-over-and-over-again trope, the immediate first point of comparison is Groundhog Day. However what I found myself thinking of the most when watching Palm Springs is Undone, the magnificent miniseries from the creators behind BoJack Horseman (and therefore two of the best TV series in recent memory). Palm Springs has a similar approach to its premise, with an intense focus of the characters and their personal motives and emotional needs more than the logic of the premise or the comedic scenarios that result from it. Not that Palm Springs fails to mine the comedic potential from its premise or short changes the theoretical science. Rather, it’s one of the rare, perfectly balanced films that manages to make room for all three in its short runtime. The film conducts itself with a breezy and sharp-witted attitude, and wasn’t anything like the hard work I had feared it might so easily have been.

The film ingeniously begins in medias res in multiple different ways, slowly peeling back revelations about its central characters at just the right moments in the story. We start with Sarah (Cristin Milioti) and Nyles (Andy Samberg), two strangers who meet at a wedding at a desert resort, only for Sarah to wake up the next morning the same place she was the day before. As it transpires, Nyles is stuck in a recursive time loop and has been living this day over and over for some time, and has now inadvertently pulled Sarah in too.

Rather than the fairly trite ‘get the day right and get the girl’ moral of Groundhog Day, or the ‘learn to rise to the occasion and become an action hero’ stuff of Edge of Tomorrow, Palm Springs uses its time loop premise to grapple with the existential fears and insecurities of its characters. Sarah and Nyles are confronted with the literal incarnation of a routine—a life without cause and effect or linear progression—and forced to either reconcile themselves with a safe life of co-dependence and no consequence, or find a way to break out and make meaningful life choices, leaving their self-destructive tendencies behind them. It’s to the film’s considerable credit that the romantic answers it provides are neither self-important nor facile, thanks in no small part to the winning performances of the cast.

Milioti and Samberg are surprisingly compelling and funny leads, and J.K. Simmons is more predictably terrific, providing macabre laughs and unexpected tenderness as Nyles’s nemesis. Throughout Palm Springs manages to be good-natured and occasionally even profound as it barrels amiably through its narrative at a recklessly watchable pace.

Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!

Written by TV Obsessive

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