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Groundhog Day Movie – Palm Springs (2020)

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Or do you just say screw it?

Palm Springs: this year’s entry in the Groundhog Day genre is a deft, satirical comedy with paradoxical hints of darkness and transcendence. There’s an unforced whimsy, with unheroic but likable characters. Everything unfolds at a languid rate, lobbing in more symbolic images than you can shake a can of beer at.

Palm Springs is deeply existential, frequently whacked, and somehow sweet. I enjoyed every minute.

I wasn’t expecting much from Palm Springs, to be honest. This was never on my ‘must-watch in 2020’ list. I’ve never even heard of it, and I make a point of following time looping Groundhog Day type movies.

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What’s a Groundhog Day loop?

If you aren’t familiar with the filmatic conceit of a Groundhog Day loop, it’s named for the repeating day phenomena popularized by Bill Murray’s lovable curmudgeon in the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day. While Star Trek: The Next Generation did it first (See my review of episode Cause and Effect), Bill Murray did it loudest. And it’s been done many times since, putting Hollywood in its own repeating time loop. Not that I mind.

Wikipedia offers this brief explanation of time loop motifs:

A time loop or temporal loop in fiction is a plot device whereby characters re-experience a span of time which is repeated, sometimes more than once, with some hope of breaking out of the cycle of repetition.

As a viewer, you don’t have to understand the temporal misalignment. You just accept that it happens. There could be magic involved, or science, or just a glitch in the Matrix. Only on Star Trek do they bother to explain it, because the why isn’t the point.

The fun is seeing it unfold, and what the characters do when facing… infinity.

JK Simmons is the man.

Welcome to today. Again.

It’s not a spoiler to say the main character in Palm Springs doesn’t jump through time alone; it’s the premise. But the plot looks squarely at the nature of existence. What is mortality? What is the purpose of humanity? It makes you wonder what you’d do with an unsolvable dilemma. Who do you do with your life after every way out is exhausted?

The characters even nod at all the other Groundhog Day movies. And no, suicide still doesn’t work. 😉

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A few things making Palm Springs stand out from other time loop tales: 
1. How the protagonists handled their endless predicament: differently than each other, and also different than other characters with infinite time problems.
2. The R rating. That’s new.
3. The scenery is essentially a character, and that’s damn cool too. If you’ve spent any time in Coachella Valley or Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll wax wistfully nostalgic. (You might even go for a road trip after our own time hiatus is over.)

Finally, there was something strange and magical at the finale that made me personally happy, but I won’t spoil it for you.

We’re lucky to have this new movie right now. Catch it at the drive-in if you can! A perfect sleeper hit.

Movie Grade: A+

What does the ending of Palm Springs mean?

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2 responses to “Groundhog Day Movie – Palm Springs (2020)”

  1. This review couldn’t have arrived at a better time! I’d seen an article on Looper about a DCEU viewing order; I was three movies in and thankful that there were only seven on the list when the email arrived.

    I’m quite the Groundhog Day fan too; I mean, who amongst us hasn’t thought at some time “if I could just go back and redo some day or other” and It’s interesting to see how that could play out. So describing it as being of that genre I was always going to take a look. Throw in a Jill Florio ‘A+’ rating and I was throwing money at the TV!

    And I’m glad I did for a number of reasons. I think JK Simmons is awesome; he can do no wrong in my opinion. Then there’s Cristin Milioti. I have a massive crush on her; she has an unconventional beauty and I loved her episode of “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” Ep. 5 – A Dark, Quiet Death. Andy Samberg I can take or leave. I’ve seen a few episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and that’s about it; SNL doesn’t get shown over here so he’s a bit of an unknown entity as far as that’s concerned.

    As for the story, that was well done too. Enough nods to the suicides in Groundhog Day to show that we’re on the same playing field, or ballpark as I believe it’s called over there, but enough differences to make it fresh; bringing a second person into the loop is a great idea!

    All in all a very pleasant way to spend a morning. Now I suppose I’d better get back to Suicide Squad…

  2. Thank you, Rob. I love that we love the same movies. I’m a sucker for any Groundhog Day film, which is why I keep a running list. Which I might need to update based on the comments section. But I haven’t seen the movies Ryan mentions.

    I am certainly keeping the Groundhog Day definition narrow. Otherwise it would be a different kind of time loop post. What would be a name for something like Butterfly Effect or 50 First Dates?

    At least I am not Jill ‘Hatchet’ Florio for this one. I was delighted by Palm Springs, and it’s hard to delight me, especially so completely. I can’t wait to watch it again. I’ll keep my anticipation for next week…I wanted to watch it again the next night!

    But I held off, and tried to watch Scoob!…which was so bad that I just couldn’t manage it. I fast forwarded through it all, and it’s too bad. I was a Scooby Doo fan as a kid. I would have to give Scoob! an F. It’s lucky it’s not an F-, but it had a couple of referential things here and there that weren’t entirely awful. Anyway. I think Dan will do the Scoob! Peetimes and review, so we shall see what he says.

    I’m more than happy to give out good grades. I really enjoyed Trolls World Tour in spite of myself, and gave it a solid B. It’s subversive and fun. And adults can see things kids can’t in it. But now I’m talking about things to discuss in Artemis Fowl, so I’ll save the rest of those thoughts for that comment section. 🙂

    DC is problematic. I liked Shazam and Wonder Woman, although both had villain problems. Same with Suicide Squad. Villains are hard to get right. Even the MCU only has a handful. I haven’t seen Harley Quinn yet, but I’ll give it a lot of leeway when I see it. DC has a gritty niche, which is a hard sell in these times. They keep trying to catch up the MCU, but they’re really the second string.

    Have you seen Aquaman yet? It had a lot of the same problems I saw in the Artemis Fowl film. Too much CGI and exposition, too much telling and not showing.

    Back to Groundhog Day films:

    I have a lot of great days I’d like to repeat. I want to think about which ones I’d pick again. Wedding day, a lot of beach days in Brazil, climbing days from college, most of my backpacking trips, camping in Baja California.

    What days would you want to repeat?

    BTW, I think the Nyles character in Palm Springs was cool…I like the idea of saying *Screw It*, and just playing around with life forever. With no future effects from being a dork in the now. 😉

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