Palm Springs: a curious time-loop rom-com that doesn’t disappoint.
The Golden Globe-nominated film plays with themes already explored but adds a twist to it that takes you along for the ride.
Palm Springs has a very bizarre beginning for what appears to be a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. The film centers around two characters attending a wedding. First, we meet Nyles, played by Andy Samberg. He doesn’t seem to care about anything, wearing a Hawaiian shirt to the reception and drinking beer after beer. Then we meet Sara, played by Cristin Milioti. She’s the bride’s big sister and seems to not have a care in the world. Still, these two don’t know each other. Not yet anyway. There’s a sense that this is not the start of the story, and in fact, it’s not. We’re dropped right in the middle of it. Then, right before these two have sex, Nyles gets hit with an arrow while a crazy man chases after him; a confirmation that this will just get weirder. He doesn’t seem surprised, but Sarah screams, “What the fuck is happening,” and I completely understand her sentiment. Finally, they go into a mysterious cave which is what triggers the infinite time-loop, making them re-live the wedding day forever.
What happens next is nothing short of confusing, chaotic, funny, compelling, and random. In theory, this is a pretty basic concept that we’ve seen many times before. In action though, it makes for a very ludicrous (in the best way) result. Nyles has probably been stuck in here forever, so he just chills by the pool, goes to the local bar, plays darts, and lives like there’s no tomorrow. In this case, there literally isn’t. She is stuck in her worst nightmare and tries to escape. After realizing her fate, she joins Nyles in the carefree lifestyle. They are now together driving around, eating burritos, dancing, and even flying a plane, only to laughingly plummet to their “deaths.” They can live without worrying about what people think about them. How long have they been here? Who knows. But these sequences are not only pure, honest fun for them, it’s also fun for the audience.
Both Samberg and Milioti work together so well. Their comic timing suits the tone of the movie perfectly. They balanced out beautifully the emotion and more dramatic dialogue with light humor. It was not too much of one or the other. The moment you think things are about to get serious, it all ends up being very simple, but in a good way. In the middle of the movie, we find out that arrow guy is also stuck in the loop because he took too many drugs with Nyles and entered the cave. Now, he stalks Nyles and tortures him for ruining his life. And yes, this still somehow makes sense. Palm Springs is one of those films where you’re along for the ride, and it’s not a hard one to get into. It flows at just the right rhythm, so when Nyles and Sarah do too many mushrooms and see some dinosaurs, you don’t even know if they are real (an effect of the loop quantum mechanics maybe?) or just a hallucination.
Now, as I said in the beginning, at its core, this is also a rom-com. Nyles and Sarah had agreed never to have sex. But come on, we know they are not going to keep their promise. So, after “romantic?” dinosaur watching, they finally end up having sex. Yay! When she finally says, “Let’s just get it over with,” I smiled because, yes, just get it over with. And then, of course, the plot thickens. We find out that Sarah had been sleeping with the groom before the glitch, and Nyles had actually slept with her before in one of the many previous time loops and lied to her. So this is not as easy as it was initially painted out to be. These are two people reacting to a situation out of their control, but they still have to deal with their internal struggles, no matter how hard they try to avoid them.
The last part of the movie has Nyles heartbroken after Sarah “leaves.” He realizes he’s in love with her, and in the meantime, Sarah is studying quantum mechanics to find her way out of the loop. She doesn’t want to settle like he did. She wants her life back. When the moment of truth arrives, there are some pretty big decisions these characters have to make. The story elevates the stakes and gives us an explosive ending. It’s important to note the magic the director Max Barbakow and editors Andre Dickler and Matt Friedman did. Their work was so refined that every shot and cut enhanced the comedy and drama itself.
The low sci-fi aspect mixed with the comedy made the story feel very down to earth. In a way, this is a subversion of the time-loop subgenre. In other instances, we see one person going at it alone. In this case, we have three people who realize how important it is to have one person by your side. This last sweet touch was the cherry on top, which made for a very rewarding and gratifying watch. So, if you want to have a good time, laugh out loud, and experience a romance that stays with you, go and watch Palm Springs now! “Emphatic period” ( you’ll get it when you watch the movie *wink*).
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