Palm Springs

Palm Springs ★★★★

There have been so many riffs on the “Groundhog Day” formula that it can sometimes feel like the movies themselves are stuck in an endless time loop, but each subsequent iteration has tweaked the original in some way. “50 First Dates” stripped away the unexplainable metaphysics of it all for a romantic comedy that was equal parts Adam Sandler and Oliver Sacks. “Edge of Tomorrow” added aliens, Tom Cruise, and “Gears of War” cosplay to the mix. “Before I Fall” applied Harold Ramis’ concept to teen anxieties, “Happy Death Day” added a horror twist, “Russian Doll” revitalized it with an episodic approach (what a concept!), etcetera etcetera ad infinitum.

And yet, despite “Groundhog Day” becoming a genre unto itself, Max Barbakow’s witty and wise “Palm Springs” is the first movie that doesn’t just apply that old formula to a new problem, but also fundamentally alters the basics of the equation. It’s a simple adjustment, and yet the difference feels as radical and transformative as pouring milk into a bowl of cereal, or adding Waluigi to “Mario Tennis” (there had been plenty of tennis games before, but holy shit). What if, instead of relegating one person to a cyclical purgatory they’re forced to repeat over and over until they learn the error of their ways, you relegated two people to the same pocket of the Twilight Zone?

Oh SNAP. The mind boggles at the implications! Imagine spending the rest of your meaningless existence with the same person. Imagine being stuck in a perpetually static purgatory where meaningful change can only be seen through the eyes of the sad bastard suffering alongside you. Imagine being surrounded by a million strangers in a world of limitless possibilities, and winding up with the same one every night because of one fateful choice that seemed like a good idea a million years ago. Imagine… being married.

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