Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Jan Kalina is watching Palm Springs and listening to Marina Laduda’s “Almond Eyes,” and Rachel Stewart recommends “Strange Angel” by Lance Whalen.
Palm Springs Effortlessly Breezes Through Life’s Hardships (And Also Through Some Sci-Fi Conundrums in Passing)
Jan: Stop me if you have seen this before: a guy wakes up and finds out that he is living the same day over and over, doesn’t know the reason why, but relentlessly attempts to get out of this time loop. And along the way maybe he learns something about himself and becomes a better person. You know one of the time loop situations you heard so much about. Happens every day to someone. The X-Files, Source Code, Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow are top time loopy examples of how much time can get loopy (and hoopy, frood).
The plot of Palm Springs is pretty simple. I gotta say the trailer does a good job of selling the film without spoiling too much. To be frank you can figure out how the film will go based on the trailer—that is how simple the plot is. Never mind that though. Max Barbakow’s feature debut is a lot of fun.
Nyles is at a wedding at a desert resort in the middle of Palm Springs. He wakes up, has sex with one of the bridesmaids, gets in the pool, and is obligatory drunk by the end of the day. When the speeches of relatives come up, Nyles saves from embarrassment a sister of the bride’s, Sarah, with a cool, happy-go-lucky speech. They get to talking and without telling you too much, the day re-starts again. Only this time he is joined by Sarah.
The film has a pretty relaxed atmosphere, even when filled with Nyles’s cynicism (“What’s the point of living?” “Well, we kind of have no choice but to live.”). The film comes from The Lonely Island so the humor is offbeat and plays with several comedy/romantic story structure tropes. And for a romantic comedy there are a lot of serious situations which blend in the film nicely. The film deals with plenty of moral issues—loneliness, family, or the dangers of getting close to someone, responsibility, nihilism, the idea that nothing ever matters (“Pain matters. What we do to other people matters”)—but not in any standard run-of-the-mill way. More like you’ll be reminded of Noah Hawley’s Legion TV series.
Palm Springs can easily be written off as another take on Groundhog Day, only the sci-fi premise here is more present and figures into the story—there is a bit of a mystery as to how, and why it all works. Of course all very vague. But the time loop stands for the fact of life—after years, days start to blend into each other and days can also seem the same. It can be explained that both characters are experiencing a burnout of some sort.
So yes, this is a darker affair than most Samberg comedies. Samberg proves himself here a great comedic actor once again and that he can gracefully pull off a lead character and catch your attention for the whole runtime. And still keep his goofball persona. Cristin Milioti’s Sarah goes through different growth and ordeals than Nyles and she is excellent as well, playing off nicely with Samberg. Together they create a lovable duo that can sell the serious and the funny of life. Sarah is in no way the manic pixie dream girl of the many romantic comedies you know.
The film features a kick-ass soundtrack—Genesis, Kate Bush, 10,000 Maniacs…
In the U.S. you can catch the film at some drive-ins, or on Hulu. In Europe the film is getting a limited theatrical release in several countries. You know, as proper films should be released.