Haven’t most of us wondered how lovely it would be if we could go back to an immediate past and in the process getting to alter something that we had done or got into earlier? Imagine if that were to happen and you end up making a difference to the event in the past. Now hang on, even before you manage to start rejoicing, you see the same thing happen again and again. You are transported into the recent past repeatedly, leaving you clueless of what is happening to you. Now is the pandemic making me go crazy? Or am I probably watching way too many sci-fi movies of late (now this is definitely true) and hence dreaming of a time machine? Oh! No, its nothing like that, though I wouldn’t say no to getting access to a time machine.
But after watching Max Barbakow’s Palm Springs (directorial debut) it is difficult not to allow one’s thoughts to flow in such a direction. Having had its World Premiere at Sundance last year, the film went on to find a digital release on Hulu as well as a release in select drive-in cinemas in the U.S in July 2020. Winning a lot of critical acclaim, I was a bit intrigued about the film as not many rom-com’s of late have have received so much appreciation. On November 9 (the year is never referred to) in Palm Springs we get to attend Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe’s (Tyler Hoechlin) destination wedding. In attendance at the wedding among others are Nyles (Adam Sandberg), his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) and Tala’s elder sister Sarah (Cristin Miloti). Nyles and Sarah get friendly and just as they are about to get intimate, Nyles is attacked by someone and gets injured. In an attempt to save himself Nyles crawls into a cave, followed by Sarah out of concern for him, despite his warning to stay away from the cave.
Sarah is sucked into a vortex, wakes up soon and finds herself back in the same day (November 9) and sees the same things happening to her again. On confronting Nyles whom she believes to be responsible for this, Sarah gets to know that she has now got stuck in an infinite time loop of sorts along with him. Yes, this isn’t the first-time loop-based movie, be it the iconic Groundhog Day or the more recent Edge of Tomorrow, this is a plot device that has been comfortably used by Hollywood filmmakers across various genres. Thus, it is to the credit of Max Barbakow and his co-writer Andy Siara that the writing has enough meat in it to keep the audience entertained all the way. Yes somewhere in between as we see a desperate Sarah and a casual Nyles go through various situations in trying to live the day differently, there’s this feeling of oh! what else is possible. But the film ensures that this just remains a passing thought in our minds (if at all) and not something that becomes a concern in any manner.
The proceedings are certainly spunky, the situations that Nyles and Sarah find themselves in are funny and inventive. The film makes light of the sci-fi aspect, for example the way reference to heavy duty subjects like quantum physics and general relativity is shown in a casual manner. Credit certainly to both Adam Sandberg and Cristin Miloti for the way they play Nyles and Sarah with an easygoing style and complimenting each other. Having spent so much time in the time loop it is not a surprise that Nyles would be bored or indifferent to the situation and Adam Sandberg brings out these traits in Nyles in an assured manner. Sarah on the other hand on realizing the situation that she is stuck in, doesn’t want to accept the situation and is desperate to break out, leading to various situations, hilarious and engrossing at the same time. Cristin Miloti brings out the necessary vulnerability and heft to the character.
The supporting cast is also effective, especially J.K.Simmons who has a blast portraying Roy and his scenes with Nyles are certainly a highlight. The arid locations of Palm Springs and the wild outdoors soon add a lot of depth to the proceedings, nearly assuming the status of a character. Eventually it is no surprise to find yourself looking at Sarah and Nyles’ time loop from an internal viewpoint (as perceived) and that by itself is a victory for the film, certainly no mean feat that Max Barbakow and his team have managed to achieve. The film is not just one with a heart, it is all about literally letting your heart celebrate the vagaries of love in an unexpected fashion.
With Hollywood films warming up to the scenario of theatrical release in India once again and with a steady flow of American films being seen in India (despite cinemas in Maharashtra and Kerala still remaining closed), over the last few weeks, it is good to see a small but largely entertaining film like Palm Springs also making its way to cinemas in India (released on 24th September). Contemplating a weekend movie date? Well now you know what to do.