Arts and Entertainment

“Palm Springs”: Déjà Vu in the Best Way Possible

A review of “Palm Springs” through the lens of quarantine (some spoilers!).

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If there’s anything the world can agree on right now, it’s that quarantine’s got us down, and that’s why “Palm Springs” is the best release of the summer.

A Lonely Island production (how fitting), this movie offers a new take on the classic time-loop storyline. The movie centers around Nyles (Andy Samberg), who attends a wedding near a cave, which, when ventured into, causes people to become stuck living in the same day forever. After Nyles spends an unspecified amount of days—some online conspirators suggest he’s been there for 40 years—doing essentially anything he wants, he accidentally leads Roy (J.K. Simmons) and later on, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the maid of honor, into the cave, trapping them as well. While Roy sets out on a path of revenge directed at Nyles for leading him into the cave in the first place, Sarah learns to roll with the punches and gets into a relationship with Nyles that becomes the focal point of the movie.

“Palm Springs” sets itself apart from other movies of the genre, like “Groundhog Day” (1993) or “Happy Death Day” (2017) by flipping the script on the ideologies about the loop holding Sarah and Nyles captive. By the time Sarah unwittingly joins Nyles in the loop, he’s essentially given up on the early “Groundhog Day” Phil Connors (Bill Murray) lifestyle. Instead of using the loop for good, Nyles approaches every day with a nihilistic attitude and makes no effort to escape because in his own words, “The only way to really live in this is to embrace the fact that nothing matters.”

Sarah, on the other hand, isn’t the selfless, caring foil to Nyles and showing no eagerness to help others. After one attempt, Sarah ceases to make any effort to use the loop to do good and frequently panics, trying almost daily to escape the cycle by getting into all sorts of lethal car accidents. The thing about this approach that makes the movie so enjoyable right now is how much Nyles embodies the general feelings people have expressed toward the early months of quarantine (think March and April). Many people decided to pick up new hobbies, like baking and knitting, which have since dissipated into an acceptance of the mundaneness of quarantine, similar to Nyles’s acceptance of the time loop. Sarah’s character also resonates with viewers through her “when will this end” ideology, allowing the audience to completely relate to both characters, especially given our present circumstances.

While the entire world shutting down shocked everyone, it is still slightly less crazy than being caught in a time-loop. Our days still move forward and differ; though by sharing the same element of boredom and helplessness as Nyles and Sarah’s lives, our everyday life feels like some sort of twisted time-loop in a way. With school starting soon, it’s hard not to wonder when things will go back to normal and what life will be like when it does. That question gets brought up toward the end of “Palm Springs,” when Sarah decides that her best shot at getting out of the loop is by blowing herself up while inside the cave.

Nyles hesitates to join Sarah because he seems to find comfort in his situation and doesn’t know if he really wants to go back to his normal life. Nyles’s thoughts on returning back to normal are shared by many people who are upset that they will one day be unable to wear sweatpants to work or attend class in their bedroom. And if going back to school is the real-life version of blowing up the cave, how different will the new normal be? Shouldn’t things change? Will all the Nyleses of the world come around like the character does at the end of the movie? In the movie version of these events, everything goes nearly seamlessly, with Nyles and Sarah making a full escape and discovering a new life together. But it’s hard to imagine our real lives returning to normal without a few bumps in the road.

“Palm Springs” is definitely one of those movies we can all relate to, especially right now. Even without our current circumstances, the exploration of misery, love, loneliness, and ironically, togetherness are timeless and allow viewers to truly connect with the characters and the story. Who would’ve thought that a movie about a love story within a single, repeating day would be just what we needed to get through our own, less crazy time-loop?