Warmed Over, by Barnabas Prontnicki

21 Jul

Over the weekend I made chicken sandwiches from a recipe entitled “Copycat Chic-Fil-A Sandwiches.” I also watched a movie where a discontented, immature male relived the same day over and over again and was only shaken from his mundane life by trying to win over a lady love interest. You may have heard of it, it’s called Groundhog, er, Palms Springs.

When I first saw a trailer for Palm Springs, I was excited. It looked funny, and while some are put off by Andy Samberg (who plays the lead, Nyles), I rather enjoy him. But my main question was, “Is this going to be any different from Groundhog Day?”

The answer: Not really.

It does have some variations, however. For example, our lead isn’t in this never-ending repeat-the-same-day cycle alone. He has brought fellow wedding guest Roy (J.K. Simmons) along, and our story really gets going when Nyles brings Sarah (Cristin Milioti) into the cycle. Both are essentially brought into the cycle by accident, when they enter a mysterious cave.

While Palm Springs is similar to Groundhog Day, the set dressing and a more moveable camera than thirty years ago help the film feel fresh. It is well cast, with the likes of Samberg, Simmons, Milioti, as well as one of my favorites, Peter Gallagher, and a great performance by Meredith Hagner as Nyles’ pretentious, out of touch with reality girlfriend, Misty.

I laughed most of my way through the film, as we watch Nyles and Sarah relive Sarah’s sister’s wedding day over and over again. It goes through the “normal” stages of how someone deals with realizing they are stuck in an infinite time-loop: shock, searching for answers, trying to kill yourself to get out of it, thinking that nothing you do matters, and so forth and so on.

Story-wise, things start to get a little fuzzy in the second half of the story. Our female lead makes an abrupt turn in behavior right when we might expect her not to. The bubbling chemistry between the could-be lovers never gets the chance to blossom. The story also seems to ignore just how psychotic it would be to be living the same day over and over again, as it seems Nyles has been stuck in this loop for decades, maybe centuries.

One element of the film that didn’t sit right with me was its message: that you can’t really be happy unless you are paired up with someone. When Nyles is in a rough place about how Sarah is also stuck in the infinite loop, Roy encourages him with, “At least you have each other.” Going through it alone would unbearable, apparently.

But what about those who don’t “have someone?” Sure, you could say that “having someone” could also include having a close friend or family member by your side, but that doesn’t seem to be what this movie is saying.

Romantic Comedies can easily fall victim to this message. We’ve gotten used to them. However, some Rom-Coms have “grown up” from the 90s/early 2000s stereotypes. They are more honest about how love can be difficult and messy. And most importantly, newer Rom-Coms acknowledge that love doesn’t start by bumping into your future spouse and making them spill whatever papers/coffee/fragile objects they were carrying.

Fortunately, Palm Springs doesn’t have those cliché scenes, where Nyles is immediately lovestruck when Sarah takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. However, it seems to put forward the message that in order to live the best life, you’ve got to have someone. Entertaining as it is, a dangerous message lies beneath the relatively light-hearted tone of the movie.

A fresh take on an originally groundbreaking story concept, Palm Springs entertains. And in at under 90 minutes, the movie never really drags, except for maybe one part when Nyles and Sarah are on mushrooms and think they see dinosaurs (it’s okay, that’s not a main plot point).

Worth your time watching? I’d say so. Ground-breaking like Groundhog Day? Not so much. That’s okay. My chicken sandwiches weren’t quite Chic-Fil-A quality, but both the film and my cooking met a passing qualification as “perfectly enjoyable.”

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