About Time / 50 First Dates / The Edge of Tomorrow / Source Code / Happy Death Day… … and the list of movies that quote and reverence, use and sometimes offend Groundhog Day goes on. I think I wrote about all or almost all of them. A movie comes on that quotes Groundhog Day and I’m up early again with Sonny & Cher. And to this day no movie – that I know of, at least – went as far as Palm Springs. Not in the nerve -although also in the nerve- when it comes to quoting, working on Groundhog Day, but for taking Groundhog Day directly as if it were a code of cinema, as if it were an element of the language of cinema known to all. Palm Springs does not “restart from the beginning” (Ricomincio da capo) but assumes the knowledge of Groundhog Day by its audience and goes further, because it takes “Groundhog Day” no longer as a film but as if it were a flashback, or a plane with a subjective point of view. Palm Springs‘ greatest tribute to Groundhog Day is taking it as common ground, shared by viewers. Just as there is a “Kuleshov effect” there is now – definitively and forever, or until re-awakened – a Groundhog Day effect.
Groundhog Day: already a concept, a motor of meaning, a starting point that doesn’t even have to be explained too much. And in that beginning, in the middle of things – as Groundhog Day was decided not to do – is when Palm Springs seems to have the energy, poise and elegance to try and recast comedy in these times when the world rather than being refounded seems to be recast. But nothing is refounded, neither comedy nor the world. Palm Springs has a brilliant start not only because Andy Samberg and the other actors and especially the actresses are brilliant, funny, happy to act in such boldness but -and above all- because the mimetic operation on the most defining moments – let’s say the second half , let’s say the end, let’s say everything- of Groundhog Day is made with self-confidence and without the need to wink: the notion of the perfect party, of exact timing before everything, the wisdom that the viewer shares of knowing that love was already born by the gazes, and more. And that with the best jokes, those that are played at the moments in which -thanks to the 1993 mold film-, let’s explain again, there is no need to explain anything. In those moments, the characters dance like in a classic Hollywood musical without being nostalgic, actions take place in various places in the shot as if it were one of Berlanga´s, and the camera is graceful and accurate as in one of the best films produced by Tom Cruise. But, even with the possibilities of combination with more than one character living eternity in one day -multiplication of jokes, changes of point of view, etc- Palm Springs is progressively squandering its riches, its own and those inherited, in a path inconstant towards the explanations, the obvious, the little songs that do not go very well with his 21st century cynicism (and cynicism is not the worst of the comedy of this century), the “virtuous” montage and tribute to Groundhog Day if one considers each sequence or scene or shot separately but not in its narrative and emotional implications in a broader way, with greater scope, those that could make us see cohesion. Palm Springs knows that it is part of one of the best films in history and it is confident that the inheritance will pay off a lot even if t does not have the strength and the ability to sacrifice to work too hard.
In reality it is not like that, neither one nor the other: there is a thorough work in the jokes, in the possible derivations of the characters, in imitating the montage of Groundhog Day; what there is is nothing else. And what there isn’t is something like trust in a framework of meaning, in an organizing center, in a tradition. The cinema, for the non-existent soul of Palm Springs, is an extinct art, an abandoned quarry from which riches can be extracted and exhibited with a little seduction and a little immodesty. Palm Springs is a sad film not because it is nihilistic or cynical but because it does not trust what it admires. Is it a good comedy? Yes, of course, it can even become one of those that fall at the right time (living the same day on repeat // quarantine, dah), but it is one of those that does not improve the cinema, that quickly disappoints and that -of course- will not have the destiny of greatness of Groundhog Day. The great films usually do not know of their greatness but they do know of their relevance and, above all, of their belonging. Palm Springs is post everything but it doesn’t dare to be it with aplomb, that’s why it inserts dialogues and emotional music that are out of its system and point to its pose, not its costume, because imitating is not acting. Palm Springs tries to be a fantastic comedy like the most fantastic of comedies, but it doesn’t bet on metaphysics, it literally stays on physics, on terrestrial and pedestrian explanations. Palm Springs does not dare to contradict the decadence of the world in these decades: it does not dare to do the impossible, it does not dare to fail with greatness. Yes, it is true, at various times it hits quickly, almost flying; and it doesn’t matter if flying high or low, because it flies like a drone and not like a bird.
(United States, Hong Kong, 2020)
Direction: Mark Barbakow. Script: Andy Siara. Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Camila Mendes. Production: Chris Parker, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Dylan Sellers, Becky Sloviter, Jorma Taccone. Lenght: 90 minutes.