Palm Springs: The Best of Both Worlds (Movie Review)
A surprisingly poignant comedy that tackles more than what it seems to let on.
Ever since I started watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I’ve been a massive fan of Andy Samberg. Of course, I had heard of his exploits on Saturday Night Live and as one of the members of The Lonely Island before, but it was after I saw him as Jake Peralta that I began to take notice of his incredible charm and talent for comedy. It was only natural, therefore, that I immediately plop myself down first thing in the morning when I heard that a new movie starring him titled Palm Springs, had been released on Hulu. I went into the movie completely blind and not knowing what to expect, and what I found was pleasantly surprising. Palm Springs is a light-hearted romantic comedy that can get surprisingly poignant at times, yet never loses itself in its more serious moments.
The movie starts by introducing us to Nyles (played by Andy Samberg), a man who seems to be immensely bored with everything and everyone around him, which might turn out to be a problem seeing as he’s attending a wedding. After the ceremony, however, he happens to run into Sarah (played by Cristin Milioti), who is the sister of the bride and in her families’ eyes, a complete screw-up. What initially turns out to be a sensual encounter between two kindred spirits quickly turns into something completely different when someone abruptly tries to kill Nyles with a bow and arrow. Nyles flees into a strange glowing cave, warning Sarah not to follow him. Naturally, she does, and it resets the entire day. Upon confronting Nyles, she finds out that he’s been trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again, and because she entered the cave, she’s now stuck with him. From there, the movie goes on exactly how you would think it would – the duo have to find a way to break out of the loop so that they can get back to their normal lives, and hijinks ensue in the process.
The first thing that came to mind when I watched the film is how it mirrors what our lives have been like for the majority of the year. Many of us are reliving the same day over and over again while quarantining ourselves, and sometimes it’s natural to wonder why we bother with routines or schedules because at the end of the day, we’re all stuck in the same place.
In a way, this is a central focus of much of the movie, albeit in a different sense; even as you watch Nyles and Sarah amuse themselves with an endless number of shenanigans, you can feel a sense of heaviness, possibly borne from the knowledge that all of what they do ultimately has no purpose and that everything just resets whenever they die or go to sleep. Some days are better than others, where they party all day and night, but other times, they feel the weight of reliving the same day over and over again, and the paradox of them escaping the confines of time yet being trapped by it slowly takes its toll, and the viewer feels the weight too. The film addresses this through multiple conversations the two have about the meaning of life inside their time loop and whether life outside it had any to begin with, and it is here that both Samberg and Milioti shine – they play the carefree drunk and the all too cynical placeholders in society all too well.
“The only way to really live in this is to embrace the fact that nothing matters.”
“Well, then what’s the point of living?”
“Well, we kind of have no choice but to live. So I think your best bet is just to learn how to suffer existence.”
The plot, while not spectacular or mind-blowing, is simple enough to keep you invested, and the colourful (if sometimes mildly forgettable) cast of characters surrounding our leads do a good enough job of keeping you interested in the proceedings of the wedding. The one liners are wacky, but oddly enough, most of them (if not all) work due to the wonderful chemistry between Samberg and Milioti, and as the film inched towards its conclusion, I found myself surprised at the variety of emotions the film had brought about. For a 90 minute comedy, it dealt with some complex topics, and it separated itself from similar movies that deal with time loops by focusing on how the character chooses to view their life, warts and all, rather than focusing on some karmic self-improvement getaway.
Overall, Palm Springs is a great movie – its fun, light-hearted, but also serious enough to know where it’s going and pull off some unexpected moments that feel earned. With solid performances from the leads, a charming supporting cast, and a story that wholly explores its emotional weight, it’s one film you shouldn’t miss out on.