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PALM SPRINGS: 3 ½ STARS. “Can a relationship a move forward if time is at a standstill?”

“Palm Springs,” the existential new Andy Samberg comedy now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is a riff on “Groundhog Day.” But if the premise is familiar, the treatment isn’t.

When we first met Nyles (Samberg), he’s a nihilist. “This is one of those infinite time-loop situations you might have heard about,” says Nyles. “It could be purgatory, a glitch in the system, whatever. The important thing is, the only way to live in it, is to embrace that nothing matters.” His girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) is a bridesmaid at the Palm Springs wedding of her childhood friend Tala’s (Camilia Mendes) and her beau Abe (Tyler Hoechlin).

It’s a stuffy affair, livened up only by Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the unlucky-in-love sister-of-the-bride. When Misty runs off with oner of the groomsmen, Nyles sets his eyes on Sarah. They decamp to a private spot in the desert and just as they’re getting down to business, Nyles is impaled by an arrow shot by Roy (J. K. Simmons). Running to escape a second shot, Nyles ducks into a nearby cave but urges Sarah not to follow. Of course, she does and… cut to the next scene, she’s back in her hotel room getting ready for the wedding, caught in the same time loop as Nyles.

Confused, she confronts Nyles. As he explains the screwball situation, she immediately starts looking for a way out. It’s impossible, he tells her, describing how he once tried to escape, and made it to Equatorial Guinea but “still woke up back here.” He lives in the moment, spicing things up a bit from time to time, by hiding a bomb inside the wedding cake to amuse Sarah, knowing that that every day will reset.

As romance blossoms between they wonder, “How can their relationship possibly move forward if time is at a standstill?”

“Palm Springs” is a rom com, but it isn’t so much about finding love as it is finding purpose. “I thought I knew how to live,” Nyles says, “but I didn’t and I don’t.” Nyles and Sarah react to their situations very differently. He uses the endless repeat of his life as an excuse to do whatever strikes his fancy. “I have felt everything I’ll ever feel,” he says, “so I’ll never feel anything again.” He’s not malicious, he simply realizes that there are no consequences to his actions. She wants out, or, at the very least, to get something out of her life after years of being the black sheep of the family. Ultimately, the time loop makes both understand that a life lived without purpose is no life at all.

A great deal of the movie’s success comes from the casting. Samberg and Milioti have tremendous chemistry and bring out the best in one another. She blunts his jerky tendencies; he accentuates her vulnerability and steeliness. Without this sparkling combination the movie wouldn’t work nearly as well.

The time loop rom com is a slim genre, but “Palm Springs” is a worthy addition.


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