We’re all living some version of a real life time loop right now. One where each day resembles the last. So it’s a perfect time for Palm Springs. A ray of cathartic sunshine in a bleak time. The new Hulu original proves that substance isn’t just found on the small, streaming screen. You can also find it within the every day. This Palm Springs review isn’t just pontificating on how good the movie is, but how it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Palm Springs Review:
Quarantine has brought with it roller coasters of highs, lows and a general pondering of life itself. Nyles (Andy Samberg) is a cynic plagued with similar questions. After falling into a time loop, the meaning of life has become even less significant. It’s a sentiment many of us have expressed, openly or privately in recent months. Especially while the future is hazy and difficult to ascertain.
Palm Springs functions with many time loop tropes we’re familiar with but also presents some fresh takes. For starters, our protagonist is already in the loop when we meet him. Nyles has been reliving the wedding day of his girlfriend’s best friend (a stand out part by Meredith Hagner). In the opening scene, he steals the spotlight from sister and maid of honor, Sarah’s (Cristin Milioti) speech. In a brilliantly depicted way, which makes it clear (if you’re paying attention) that Nyles is already in the loop, he smoothly saunters over to Sarah across the dance floor.
The connection is instant, and soon they’re making out on the beach. But when the mysterious Roy interrupts them, things get complicated. Despite his pleas to stay away, Sarah follows Nyles back into the glowing cave, and accidentally finds herself in the time loop too.
The fact that we meet Nyles after falling into the loop is significant. Because it indicates some progression he’s already made off screen. In Groundhog Day we watch Phil’s evolution throughout his predicament. Suicidal, god complex, and a long string of self involved daily activities including manipulating a woman into sleeping with him. Ultimately, Phil uses his situation for good, grows as a person and is rewarded with the next day.
Nyles on the other hand has already been through much of that cycle. Similar, self gratifying actions, and as we learn, suicides too. We don’t know what stage we’re currently finding him in but it’s clear he’s been grappling with this for some time.
One of his many escapades also explains the Roy character, (the wonderful J.K. Simmons). After getting high together during one of the wedding nights, Nyles mistakenly shows Roy the magical cave. In turn, plunging him into the loop as well. Once that happens, Roy sets out for revenge with varying consequences, until eventually resetting again each day.
At first thought, reliving the same day, specifically your sister’s wedding in Palm Springs, forever seems like a special kind of torture. Except in this case, (another way the film stands out), two stuck in a loop is certainly better than one.
Nyles and Sarah have a fast chemistry, and watching their relationship blossom is just fun. This movie is just fun. And we need more of that right now.
As best friends the duo are unstoppable. While Sarah starts off angry, (understandably) they soon realize that reliving the same day doesn’t have to mean doing the same things daily. Nyles wasted away his time (for how long we don’t know) inside the loop. But Nyles and Sarah together go on adventures. They steal airplanes. At one point, they even perform a choreographed number at the local dive bar.
But amidst the ubiquitous dance montage, and silliness, there’s a more substantial thought at the heart of Palm Springs. A message that anyone, especially those living with a partner in quarantine can understand best right now. A relationship doesn’t need bells and whistles forever to keep it running. All you need is each other. Sappy, cliche, yes. Needed right now? Absolutely.
Despite their growing bond, and ease with each other, Nyles is still stuck in a perpetual fog of immaturity and disconnection. He feels deeply for Sarah. But the time loop is a safety net, and an easy place to remain. Sarah on the other hand grows eager to return to her normal, real life. She’s also desperate to leave the loop for other reasons; a twist revealed in the final act.
That leads Sarah to begin using her day to learn quantum physics which is in no way realistic. But hey, is any of this?
Niles remains hesitant to join her attempts at returning home. But a final chat with Roy finally gives him clarity. Roy explains that at some point, he stopped fighting the loop. Instead, he chose to spend each day basking in his backyard with his wife and daughter. Enjoying the perfect simplicities of life.
Palm Springs works because it seems to understand the complexities of relationships, both good and bad. As I write this Palm Springs review, I can safely say that while not every day is paradise (far from it) I wouldn’t want to endure this strange, slow journey right now with anyone but my person. While in the loop, Sarah wonders if they’ll grow sick of each other. Nyles tells her, “We’re already sick of each other. It’s the best!”
Palm Springs proves that a spending a lifetime of similar days with someone could be a monotonous nightmare. But with the right person, it’s a dream.
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