Review – Groundhog Day in the Desert (“Palm Springs”)

Yes, you’ve seen them before. Time-loop movies. From Groundhog Day to Happy Death Day, they have always held a special fascination with audiences, especially when the subject matter is more than the sum total of its parts. And with this damned virus, this film shoulda been in the theaters.

His name is Nyles (Andy Samberg) and he wakes up every morning in bed with his cheating girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner). Every single morning. For how long? Who knows! Not even Nyles, as he’s been stuck in a time-loop for maybe a million days after he entered a mysterious glowing cave. He keeps repeating the same Palm Springs wedding day of Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe (Taylor Hoechlin), drinking countless beers, hitting on women (and some guys), and accepting his fate after innumerable attempts of trying to ‘escape’ and avoid the vengeful wrath of Roy (J.K. Simmons), a fellow time-looper who went into that cave as well.

One night, Nyles meets and tries to seduce Sarah (Cristin Milioti), Tara’s sister, but with disastrous results. She accidentally follows Nyles into that cave and BOOM! SHE is now stuck in the same time-loop as Nyles! Freaking out at first, Sarah slowly comes to accept her twisted fate as Nyles shows her the ropes of having no consequences in life since, even if you die, you wake up the same morning on the same day over again. Nyles finds a kindred spirit in Sarah and the two hit it off famously, even dodging the murderous Roy. But complications arise when both Nyles and Sarah share their secrets with each other, secrets that neither one was ready to hear.

The focus shifts from Nyles’ POV to Sarah’s as she attempts to find a way out of this accursed loop through science, but will it work and will Nyles even be interested in leaving his safe-place? Now, you’d think for a newbie screenwriter, Andy Siara would play it safe and stick to a rom-com or something easy, but no! Siara, who only wrote for the forgettable TV series Lodge 49, has taken the often overused time-loop trope and added a splash of crazy comedy and heartfelt drama. Ignore the opening five minutes as it has a rocky, uneven start, but after that, once you get into the swing of things, the comedy kicks in. This is due largely to Andy Samberg’s crack comedic timing (he slips into his Brooklyn 99 Jake Peralta persona on occasion, and who can blame him) and his co-star, Cristin Milioti (with those great big Amanda Seyfried/Emma Stone eyes).

Under the terrific direction of another newbie, Max Barbakow (short films & docs only), Samberg and Milioti develop wonderful chemistry together and verbally spare with each other, which is part of the charm of this movie. Aside from the LOL comedy, this movie also gives us a chance to see them shine in some heart-breaking scenes that showcase their strengths as dramatic actors. And, of course, J.K. Simmons is perfect in the small role he’s given, as always. It’s a pity this movie won’t be seen in the theaters as it’s that good, but you can see it at home. Stream it, it’s worth it!!

Streaming exclusively on Hulu