What I’m watching: a new romantic science fiction movie

July 27, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

What I’m watching: a new romantic science fiction movie.

On Hulu: Palm Springs

“Ground Hog Day,” the 1993 comedy with Bill Murray introduced American audiences to the concept of a time loop. Essentially at least one character in a story comes to realize that he or she is stuck in the same day. Often they have no idea why this is happening but quickly understand they apparently have to do something to get out of it.

Since 1993 there have been quite a number of films that have incorporated the plot device.

The last time loop narrative I watched was the Netflix limited series “Russian Doll.”

In general I find time travel to be a difficult proposition for science fiction films because in most cases the physics and logic of time travel are frequently ignored.

“Palm Springs” is a new romantic comedy time loop movie starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. Samberg is Nyles, the boyfriend of a woman who is the maid of honor in a wedding conducted in the desert community of Palm Springs.

Milioti is Sarah, the sister of the bride and the black sheep of the family.

We quickly learn that Nyles is in a time loop. He has long given up trying to figure things out and is content with repeating the same day as long as he can drink, have sex and generally be irresponsible. He knows the day will reset either with his death or by just going asleep.

When he has a day with Sarah, she follows him into a cave in the desert, something he urges her not to do. Now, she is in the time loop with him, along with a cousin of the family bent on torturing Nyles for getting him involved.

Sarah, though, sees the time loop in a different light, partly for her growing affections for Nyles. She wants to get out to get a real life, while Nyles has become content with his existence.

Andy Siara’s screenplay makes a great effort to do several things: it forgoes the why this all happens but instead concentrates on what it would be like to live in this situation. It also attempts successfully to come up with an exit to the time loop. By not wasting time on the set-up, the movie can concentrate on the two main characters and the growth of their relationship.

I like Samberg a lot and he shows he is capable of handling drama as well as comedy. Milioti is his equal in both departments. J.K. Simmons, the great character actor, is memorable as Roy, Nyles’ would-be murderer.

 If it has been released in theaters this film would have been rated R for language.

What I did on my summer vacation

Well, not exactly as I’ve not taking vacation time as yet, but I have been doing some purging of stuff and that included looking at boxes of VHS tapes. Am I every going to watch them again?

Well, as it turns out I have two working VCRs – neither without their remote controls, though – and I have pared down the box of VHS tapes to those I truly want to see again. Many are films that never received a DVD release.

Each tape I’ve saved I’ve put in the machine to make sure it can still play and look good. Much to my amazement, most of the tapes play well and have acceptable image and sound.

I put in a movie I taped off of TNT in 1990 – a great little newspaper drama from 1931 called “The Finger Points” – and it played perfectly.

If you have a pile of VHS somewhere you may want to try the same exercise.

All I know is there is now a whole bunch of films I’ve not seen for 20 years – a valuable addition here in the era of forced at-home entertainment.

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