Extremely inventive, funny, cynical yet upbeat. The Good Place meets B99 meets Groundhog Day – romantic, sci-fi, vaguely philosophical, it just hits all the right notes *chefs kiss*. I hope this becomes a new genre because the world needs more films like this.
Nyles (Andy Samberg) wakes up to relive the same Florida November wedding every single day of his life, aka an introvert’s worst nightmare. To onlookers, Nyles is quirky, confident, deadpan, unconventional, drunk, and unapologetically himself (as perhaps we all would be if we knew the day would reset the minute we fell asleep). But when Sarah (Critsin Milloti), the bride’s sister follows him into the cave causing the time-loop, she gets stuck too. The movie then becomes a sort of tragi-rom-comedy sci-fi romp. Nyles begins to realise that life stuck in a time loop is not quite so awful when you have good company.
Andy Samberg was 95% of the reason I watched this film, and as usual he did not disappoint. It was a welcome surprise that Cristin Milioti (the mum from HIMYM), Tyler Hoechlin, JK Simmons and Camila Mendes also gave outstanding performances. An ambitious project, a Sundance darling, and a darn good way to spend an evening, to me, the central question of Palm Springs was “Would you want to live forever?” (personally yes, I would).. From here, the film unfolds with the endearing, goofy charm that is so classic to Andy Samberg.
A lot of what makes the film interesting as well as fun is the questions that it asks. There is a Rick and Morty-esque existentialism to the way the film approaches its themes, in that nothing really matters unless it matters to you. The best example of this is the questions raised about culpability. Nyles and Sarah are immortal, therefore invincible, and since nothing they do actually happens, they have complete impunity. This situation is not without its fair share of ethical concerns. For example, the scene where Nyles tells Sarah that they can’t hurt people because the person’s pain is real, they still feel it, even if it won’t have happened tomorrow. But, is it? The film invites us to ask these questions for ourselves and look for our own answers. One of my biggest takeaways is that, sure it would be great if our actions didn’t have consequences and we had absolutely no responsibilities for a while, but the novelty would probably soon wear off because it is these consequences that give our lives meaning and allow us to move forward.
Palm Springs also invites us to analyse the nature of love, or at least human connection, loneliness and what gives our relationships value. For the most part, there is a cynical take on love, which as a Gen Z living through a pandemic, is a wholeass mood. We see that relationships, where partners don’t truly know each other are shockingly fragile and precarious. Of course, there is no clear remedy for this, seeing as we can’t all spend god knows how long in a time loop with our prospective partners and the jury is out on whether we would even want to (although maybe lockdown is that time loop). In any case, there aren’t a lot of lessons on how to make space for the kind of relationship Nyles and Sarah share. All in all, I’d recommend it. It’s far-fetched enough to be escapism, but not so far out that you struggle to empathise with the characters. Andy Samberg’s performance is, of course, flawless, and very few films that can trigger an existential crisis also feature an iconic dance number and some quantum physics I can’t pretend I understood. As much fun as How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, but as introspective as Synecdoche, New York (but not at all pretentious), it’s certainly a triumph!