Hulu gave us a nice surprise this weekend with the release of Palm Springs, a refreshingly clever take on the Groundhog Day concept from director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Saria. I wrote my review of it yesterday and you can find it here:
The sci-fi comedy originally debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and reviews have been impressive (to the tune of a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating). Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, the RT score for Springs easily eclipses that of The King of Staten Island at 72%. The latter has been mentioned for potential awards attention – albeit in a long shot fashion.
So could this even more acclaimed pic be a contender? Unlikely, but you never know in this highly unusual 2020. If Springs were to vie for any prize, I feel Original Screenplay would be its best hope. The story could be different when it comes to the Golden Globes. That’s where the genres of Drama and Musical/Comedy are divided. Depending on the competition coming in the last half of this long year, both Samberg and especially Milioti (in a breakout role) could at least be on the minds of Globes voters.
I know one thing. Based on my very positive reaction to it, I think it should at least be considered. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Maybe it’s possible that the idea of living the same day over and over again is just something that resonates during these strange COVID-19 times. Or maybe Palm Springs really is a fresh and highly satisfying take on the Groundhog Day concept. I think it’s the latter and what a pleasant surprise.
You cannot have this plot without thinking of the incomparable Bill Murray comedy. The concept has repeated itself in the action and horror genres with Edge of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day. Springs plays with the formula in unexpected ways. Another SNL alum headlines with Andy Samberg as Nyles. He’s the aimless boyfriend to younger Misty (Meredith Hagner) and he’s tagging along to her friend’s wedding in the title town. We realize quickly that something is really off with his behavior. It turns out that he’s already well along the way into his time loop and has been living this day repeatedly. This is the first realization that the screenplay from Andy Siara is playing by a different set of rules by dispensing with the origin story of Nyles’s Groundhog Day. This is a welcome change.
Sarah (Cristin Milioti, tough and sometimes vulnerable and terrific in this role) is the sister of the bride. She’s got character flaws equal to Nyles that aren’t because of the time loop. Yet that quickly changes when she joins him on the endless day. What follows is the duo attempting to figure out just what the heck is happening (the science fiction elements involve a mysterious cave and a goat).
They are occasionally joined in their adventure by another wedding guest Roy (J.K. Simmons, engaging as always) who got sucked into the vortex. It’s also possible that Nyles and Sarah are slowly – very slowly – falling in love. Or is it just that they only have each other in this untenable scenario?
The less said about how the plot rolls along the better. There are genuine revelations that I didn’t see coming, but it all fits into this clever version of a well-worn tale. This is the best Samberg has been on film and Milioti easily equals his work. We see this budding romance develop over many days, albeit the same one. As a credit to the whole team involved, it’s a lot of time well spent.
Richard Linklater brings his Dazed and Confused sensibilities to the early 1980s in Everybody Wants Some!!, focused on a college baseball team enjoying the spoils of boyhood in a slightly more grown up world than high school. The entire proceedings take place in a late August weekend before classes begin at an unnamed Texas university.
Ace pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner) is a freshman moving into one of two run down joints that house the team’s 16 players. Speaking of joints, we’ve got ’em along with lots of beer. There’s also the natural competitive nature of these young lads in full display (some of whom look far too old for college, by the way). This isn’t limited to the baseball field and it includes pool, ping pong, flicking knuckles, and chasing coeds. As you might imagine with Linklater, it’s all backed by a killer soundtrack with lots of rock but also some Sugarhill Gang (rap was just revealing itself to the masses here) for good measure.
Some!! is successful in showing the wide eyed awe of that time when anything seems possible and the night can take you anywhere (hangovers don’t really exist at this age). The 80s setting brings Jake and his mates smack dab into the social scene that dominated 1980 and conflicted with itself on occasion – discos, country western bars, punk rock moshpits.
Along the way, Jake meets a theater major (Zoey Deutch) who exposes him to yet another new and different crowd. All in a weekend. Linklater knows how to spring a certain era to life and that holds true here. Is it as memorable as Dazed or as brilliantly written? It is not, yet it’s a pleasant, sometimes raucous, and sometimes sweet experience. Fun while it lasts and ultimately a bit forgettable. That describes what’s happening with the people in Everybody Wants Some!! and for us as well.