I’d like to preface this review with a simple fact: Andy Samberg’s film career has been less than impressive.
Despite achieving some cult success in 2007 oddball comedy Hot Rod, Samberg’s starring role in the offensively abysmal That’s My Boy alongside Adam Sandler in 2012 put a significant dent in the star’s image. He bounced back after landing the lead in sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and soon got another shot in Hollywood – 2016’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which, while objectively funny, failed to impress at the box office.
With Samberg’s hit-and-miss record on the big screen, the announcement of Palm Springs in late 2018 filled me with the most tentative of excitement. After all, Samberg is undoubtedly one of the most widely gifted comic actors out there, and the prospect of a time-loop romcom set at a Palm Springs wedding sounded promising, but Samberg’s judgement hasn’t always seemed entirely sound.
Palm Springs came to Prime Video last week after its initial (and incredibly successful) release on Hulu last year, and it seemed as good as a chance as any to jump into the now critically acclaimed sci-fi comedy.
Given its central premise, it was a fairly safe assumption that Palm Springs would be at least somewhat predictable in its execution – after all, time-loop storytelling, (cinematically speaking, at least) has been well-established at this point. But in its opening scene, the slow realisation that Nyles (Samberg) has been in the loop for some time already puts a crack of doubt in that assumption, which is then shattered as we meet Sarah (Cristin Milioti), who soon finds herself caught in the loop, too.
Palm Springs is something like a snowball, picking up momentum with every passing minute, adding to its own weight without ever taking itself too seriously. By its end, it had achieved far more depth, both emotionally and intellectually speaking, than I’d ever have expected.
Both Samberg and Milioti gave heartfelt and genuine performances in their respective roles, carrying both the necessary existential weight and emotional baggage that you’d expect from two thirty-somethings who meet in such unconventional circumstances. It’s a credit to both that they are able to consistently deliver such layered performances, as every comedic moment (and there’s plenty) is subject to a hidden layer of deftly written messy subtext, lending the whole narrative a distinctly human quality.
Palm Springs is an excellent film in just about every sense: it’s conceptually and logically sound, with excellent performances, a brilliantly unique soundtrack and an utterly bleak blend of romance, comedy and existentialism.
Summary: Palm Springs will take you to a place you never expected it to, putting a new spin on a subgenre that no-one realised had become stale. Quantum theory meets millennial excess, all of which is brought to life by the mixture of exceptional writing and acting.