Whether you subscribe to the philosophy of existentialism or prefer the cold comfort of nihilism, “Palm Springs” touches on both through the eyes of its main characters, Nyles and Sarah. While the movie is ostensibly a romantic comedy, there’s a lot more going on than the usual staples of meet-cutes, break-ups, and make-ups. It’s an exploration of philosophical ideas as well – specifically, meaning and where it can be found.
This is not to disparage romantic comedies, but rather to express the excitement that the genre is being taken seriously and extended beyond its usual tropes. The script by Andy Siara has depth while maintaining a light comedic tone, it’s heartwarming where it could have been cheesy, and it’s expertly paced, naturally flowing from one beat to the next.
The story is as follows: Sarah attends her sister’s wedding only to observe an outrageous speech given by Nyles. She follows him and discovers that he (and now she) has been caught in a time loop. What do you do when you have to live the same day over and over again?
There’s plenty of time to discover the parameters, as Nyles has found. Sarah fights against the monotony, while Nyles tries to make each day different by doing the most ridiculous things he can imagine. Do you accept your fate, or do you keep trying to change?
As Nyles and Sarah spend the same day over and over with each other, their philosophies clash even while they bond over their inexplicable predicament. In the end, it isn’t so much about how we spend our lives, it’s who we spend it with that matters.
That is the core of “Palm Springs” — if nothing we do matters, is there meaning? Yes. Whatever we do, it’s the people in our lives that create meaning. Human connection is what matters. No matter what incredible or mundane circumstances we find ourselves in, if we have people in our lives that we care about and who feel the same way about us, we can endure, grow, and change through anything.
“Palm Springs” is a beautiful example of that idea, and worth re-watching to catch the small moments that build a relationship between Sarah and Nyles. They discover things about themselves and each other, extend grace, and take risks because they don’t know what tomorrow holds. The events for everyone else may be the same, but Nyles and Sarah know that anything could happen.
It’s a timely reminder with the state of the world being what it is — every day seems to hold more of the same fear, anger, and sadness. Depending on the people you surround yourself with; however, you may be able to see and share some of your own hope and do some good while you’re here. Each day may not be remarkable, but the people you spend your days with will make life worth living.
If you’re a fan of Andy Samberg or The Lonely Island, this is a must-see. For the rest of you, the cinematography is gorgeous (I’m thinking specifically of some of the lighting used), the performances by Cristin Milioti, and J.K. Simmons. The rest of the cast is delightful (look for Camila Mendes from “Riverdale” and June Squibb, as well as Peter Gallagher and Tyler Hoechlin), and the takeaway from “Palm Springs” is uplifting and inspiring.
I hope we get to see more from both writer Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow — this is Barbakow’s directorial debut and Siara’s first full-length film script. Perhaps that’s why it feels so fresh, but I have a feeling we can expect more great things from these two in the (hopefully near) future. The Lonely Island boys have a knack for choosing quality people for their projects, and “Palm Springs” is no exception (Jorma Taccone, Andy Samberg, and Akiva Shaffer are all producers for this film). I look forward to seeing what’s next.
Is your interest piqued? You can visit “Palm Springs” on Hulu.