In the end, we all die alone. However, the people who usually stand by that statement have already decided they’ll die alone. They’ve yet to question what objects inhabit the tomorrows, yesterdays, and todays of our lives? Nyles (Andy Samberg) himself has forgotten what yesterday and tomorrow looks like. He only knows today. For reasons unbeknownst to us, he lives in a time loop, reliving the same wedding over-and-over again. Max Barbakow’s raunchy rom-com “Palm Springs” adds meaning to the seeming meaninglessness of life, with infectious fun and introspective pleasure to boot.
While “Palm Springs” will certainly invite comparisons to “Groundhog Day,” Samberg’s character easily shares a close parentage with “Van Wilder,” too. Like the failure-to-launch, college party bro, Nyles joyously thumbs his nose at authority figures yet remains charming. To these ends, Nyles attends this same wedding in shorts and a Bermudian shirt. He knows the best speeches by heart, spends his day laying on a pizza raft in a pool, and drinks beer. Lots of beer. Worryingly, he’s very comfortable in this existence, a life without age or death. Or responsibilities. He just has to attend a wedding, and live every day as though it’s not his last.
Nevertheless, in a relationship with the bride’s younger sister Misty (Meredith Hagner), Nyles knows the painful paths the day will take him on all too well. To the point that he knows every wedding guest by name but can’t remember how many todays he’s even lived. Rather than fight, he accepts the meaningless of life as a constant companion, one made to comfort. That is, until he spots the bride’s older sister Sarah (Cristin Milioti). The two quickly become intimate in the middle of a desert, a desert with a glowing red cave. A glowing red cave reverberating your atoms across time if you step inside. In short, you’re pulled into the loop. This happens to Sarah after a mysterious archer named Roy (J. K. Simmons, who does the most with least screen time) tries to kill Nyles.
Consequently, Sarah spends significant time trying to discover ways to escape the loop. All to no avail. Nevertheless, over these series of events, Nyles and Sarah grow closer: they steal a plane, sunbathe in the pool, and burst into a dive bar in coordinated outfits—red bandanas tied around their necks complimenting their denim suits—for a sparkling dance sequence. Their dynamics—Nyles’ silly sense of humor and Sarah’s robust cynicism— match for a fantastical love story.
Both Samberg and Milioti are addictive in their free-wheelin’ loopy style, partly born through Andy Siara’s irreverent script. Nyles and Sarah are the type of couple who move to the suburbs for the sole reason of teasing their neighbors while never confronting their own miserable existence. And they can only remain together if both, especially Nyles is capable of personal growth.
Because though the mundanity of their existence hangs over Sarah as an infinite punchline, the fear of living alone freezes the normally spontaneous Nyles too. Though they do live every day to the fullest, in the end, they’re still only living one day to its infinite possibilities. Chance is reduced to assurance, risk to safety, and love is nearly rendered inconsequential. Even so, “Palm Springs” isn’t an existential nightmare, but an existential parade adorned with glitter and fun, with only beers and burritos on the menu. Moreover, Nyles and Sarah’s antics are silly and over the top, during a night of shrooms they imagine dinosaurs moving in the mountains, but their love is never saccharine. Barbakow’s “Palm Springs” isn’t a sensory overload. In fact, “Palm Springs” is a fabulous adventure in love and growth. [A]