Rates: * * * *
Why Did I Watch It? Andy Samberg in a time loop rom com? YES.
Sarah is a reluctant attendee at her older sister’s wedding. She’s the family black sheep, her life is rocky, and on wedding day she wakes up in bed with someone she shouldn’t have. But as she waits for the reception to end so she can split, a diversion arrives; easy going Nyles, a fellow outcast with a good sense of humour and some funky dance moves. And, an uncanny ability to know every single thing that’s about to happen.
After 1993’s ‘Groundhog Day’, we have seen so many stories where the same day repeats endlessly that it has become a genre in itself (just in the last two years we have had two ‘Happy Death Day’ films, and the Netflix show ‘Russian Doll’). But the film makers are alert to this; Nyles explains what is happening to Sarah by quipping, ‘It’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about.’ A pair of first timers, director Max Barbakow and writer Andy Siara, they also go out of their way to freshen up the concept.
Some of their best innovations are their simplest. Nyles has actually been in the time loop for a long time already, and has gotten to a stage where he enjoys its endless repetitions; unlike other movies with this plot, we don’t actually see him enter, or learning the rules. He has reached a stage where he is not even sure he wants to leave now; as long as he is trapped he can just drink and muck around every day, which suits him well enough.
This allows his character a nice contrast with Sarah, who is almost immediately chafing at her new world’s restrictions. She wants OUT. And as the film shifts to a more romantic footing, this provides them with a natural source of conflict. It becomes a bit like ‘Eternal Sunshine’, another film to mix a rom-com plot with nutty sci fi; Sarah and Nyles are drawn to each other, have a natural spark, but are very different people. Are they bound to just annoy each other, and then make up, over and over, or can they actually progress? Another loop to be solved.
The two stars, Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, deliver charming performances and have great chemistry. Samberg channels his classic screen persona – goofy, wisecracking, good natured – but gives it more depth than what we have seen previously. Some of his best moments, are his quietest (although it is still hysterical watching him dance, or yell ‘I used to be a bomb guy!’). Milioti has mostly been doing TV (her most prominant film role to date was as Di Caprio’s first wife in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’), and her assured, wise and witty performance marks her as one to watch. And I loved that she solved the time loop using self taught quantum mechanics: the character’s self improvement was a bonus, it was actually just a science problem.
One of the best films of the year so far; a surprising comedy, with some good emotional beats and plenty of laughs.