Have you ever been unsure if you totally hate something or if you love it? Aside from boyfriends and coffee ice cream, I mean? Well, that’s where I am with Palm Springs, starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. I’m not quite sure if I hate it or love it, and I’m ready to take you on a magical, slightly snarky review journey on why.
First, the backstory:
Nyles has been caught in a time loop for (maybe?) decades longer than is reasonable. He’s reliving the same day over and over again – and it’s not even something meaningful to him. It’s the day his girlfriend’s friend is getting married and he seems to be there more from apathy than any real interest.
He’s got the wedding down pat. He knows what to say to seduce everyone there, how to make it all flow to his liking, until Sara follows him out to the desert and he gets attacked by J.K. Simmons with anger issues. Simmons plays a violent man that Nyles unfortunately led into the time loop with him after some truly terrible reasoning while on drugs. After an attack from J.K. Simmons with anger issues, Sara also gets caught up in the time loop and she has to live the day of her greatest regret repeatedly, even as she bonds with Nyles and eventually falls in love.
What I Love:
Samberg, who plays perennial slacker Nyles, and Milioti who plays perennial fuck up Sara, have undeniable chemistry. They’re easy together on screen, and their scenes resonate in a magnetic way that’s rare on screen. Their banter flows, their humor together is worth a laugh or two, and they make us believe that they’ve spent (maybe?) years together stuck in the time loop from hell.
They have a scene together at the end of the movie where Nyles is deciding that, despite his fear of the world outside the time loop, he wants to be with Sara. She spends most of his heartfelt speech judging his grammar and syntax, and I love that for her. It’s an unexpected moment in what could have otherwise been a cliche admission of feelings. It was sassy, genuine, and hilarious, and I loved that all of the building emotions came to a head in a way that aligned with the characters, but also made you feel for them.
This moment, and most of the time they got to just talk to each other is where the film shined the most. The pair got what it meant to be messy and fucked up, and you could see how in all their messiness, they could work out together; how they could end up being messy in complimentary ways focused on forgiveness and understanding.
Beyond their sparkle and some funny moments between them, it did feel like the writer was able to take a story we all know well – thanks to persistent February reruns of Groundhog Day – and twist it into something fresh and exciting. The concept didn’t feel overwrought. This was in part to the smart choice to have Nyles be a victim of the loop when the movie starts. There was less ‘Oh Em Gee, what is this?’ and more Sara catching up to him and being guided into the reality of being trapped by time with Samberg’s easy-going charm. (And them doing their thing with chemistry and heart eyes that was so magnetic).
It’s difficult to take a familiar story and make it feel like it isn’t something we’ve all been bored to death about and the writer accomplished that perfectly.
I also really appreciated Sara. She was the only person within the loop who decided that she was going to fight as best she knew how. I appreciate her determination and her smarts – and certainly her unorthodox way of fixing the loop.
Also, in the love column is the goat. Rest in pieces, goat.
What I Hate:
Everyone in this movie is a terrible human being, except for the goat, who is a goat.
Nyles and Sara are no exception to this, and though they sparkle and dazzle when in scenes together, I hate them as people. Nyles more than Sara because Sara ends up growing and learning, and basically getting a PhD in physics to learn how to un-fuck the timeloop that has her trapped in her latest and probably biggest mistake: screwing her sister’s fiancee. Which is a little bigger than not preparing a maid of honor speech, or running over a sociopath with her car.
I think that someone along the way wanted to create a vibe that these were real people with real mistakes, where nothing was perfect and yet life was still moving, but subscribed too much to the go big or go home mantra. They should have gone home. I don’t mind people making mistakes and learning from them, but it felt less about growth and more about wanting to have people be terrible because it was funnier that way.
The groom is terrible, you get the sense that Sara’s parents have written her off and only care about image, the bride is basically window dressing to the groom’s/Sara’s terrible behavior and therefore maybe the best human in the thing, and everyone else is selfish, a cheater, or wildly violent. People are painted as caricatures of human behavior that don’t truly land in a movie that does really well showcasing the love story between the main two characters.
And Nyles. Nyles is pretty terrible outside of the whole Andy Sandberg charm effect.
Nyles leads two people into a time loop with him, even though he knows it’s torture. He gives the excuse that he tried to stop Sara, the second person he guided into torture time loop land, but he also did it in a half-assed way anyone would ignore, considering he had an arrow sticking out of him at the time.
Not only did his dumbassery get two others trapped with him, he then he spent the majority of the film screwing his way through everyone at the wedding party for no other reason than…lols? I’m not sure why, outside of some idea that a man will be a man and sleep with everyone given enough time to do so? Even sex would get boring after a couple decades trapped with the same people. Worse still, is that he used his knowledge and his practiced behavior to get these people to say yes.
Is it still an informed yes if he knows how to lead them to it? My feelings are a hard no.
Sara is rightfully appalled, at least, and they don’t try to paint it as anything but terrible, but then that’s the end of the conversation as she kills herself to reset the day and decides to basically get her PhD in badassery (and physics) and save the day. Or at least end the torment that Nyles, who doesn’t help at all, started for her.
This movie also does the thing that I hate but have seen too often in modern films. It sidesteps it’s way into cheating being a non-issue by not informing the wounded party of the trespass to keep the peace, or whatever reasoning I’m supposed to care about. Cheating changes the nature of consent due to things like STIs, which is a whole other bag of whack when considering that bride might not be exposed to her sister’s funk. So, then are we supposed to be happy that Sara merely warns the groom not to fuck it up and then allows her sister to spend a decade with a cheating, crack-using prick before she’s ten years in and trapped in a loveless marriage thanks to the kids they share? Nothing about the warning, the drama of the cheating without it being resolved, or any of it was good. I didn’t want it. I didn’t need it.
It sucks that people feel the need to write cheaters absolution when it would have been way more empowering to see the only good person in the movie call off the wedding and ride off into the sunset with the goat instead.
The fact that I hated everyone’s decisions and way of being made it hard to say that I really loved this movie. It was too overpoweringly hyper-realistic about how fucked up people can be, without any of the consequences that would have made sense instead of the “haha, gee, aren’t people terrible?” I could see how some might find that interesting, but I didn’t.
The saving grace was a stellar cast who sold all of the banter and odd moments with charisma, fun, and humor that can’t be denied. Overall, the movie rates five out of ten goats for me.
What do you think? Is the originality and charisma enough? Did you care less about how terrible everyone was? Let me know in the comments!
Palm Springs is available to stream on Hulu.