One of Those Infinite Time-Loop Situations You Might Have Heard About

13 Jul

Palm Springs movieFor more than four months now, it’s felt like we’re always waking up on the same day. We repeat the same routine, hear the same news, participate in the same Zoom hangouts, walk the same deserted routes, wait on the same lines to get into the same stores, and not much about our lives changes. Every day, it’s the same thing. Over and over again.

All of which makes Palm Springs the perfect movie for these unusual times we’re living in.

In the film, which is now streaming exclusively on Hulu, Andy Samberg plays Nyles, who is stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over and over again. Yes, just like Bill Murray’s tortured weatherman in the classic 1993 film, Groundhog Day. Or Natasha Lyonne’s game developer in the Netflix show Russian Doll. Except in Nyles’ case, it’s the wedding day of his girlfriend’s best friend (Riverdale’s Camila Mendes). And yes, it’s in Palm Springs, California. On November 9. (The groom is played by Tyler Hoechlin, from Everybody Wants Some!!, my favorite movie of 2016, and the father of the bride is played by Sandy Cohen himself, Peter Gallagher.)

When the film begins, the loop has already begun, and Nyles is on his umpteenth day of waking up in the same bed, drunkenly enduring the same events in the same Hawaiian shirt and shorts, and making all kinds of mischief — all with no consequences. “Today, tomorrow, yesterday … it’s all the same,” he says. We’re never told how many times Nyles has already experienced this day, but suffice it to say, he’s already given up, and has resigned himself to his unusual fate.

But then sister-of-the-bride Sarah (Cristin Milioti, the Mother from How I Met Your Mother) somehow gets herself stuck along with Nyles. She, however, is less than thrilled about the thought of repeating this particular day over and over. But she gives in, and soon the two are pushing the limits of just how much they can do before they fall asleep and wake up in the same places, ready to do it all over again. And again. And again.

Produced by Samberg and his partners in the Lonely Island (you know, the guys who made those fun Saturday Night Live videos, like “I’m on a Boat,” “Lazy Sunday,” and “Dick in a Box”), Palm Springs seems to exist in a world where Groundhog Day and Russian Doll do, too. As Nyles explains to Sarah early on, “It’s one of those infinite time-loop situations you might have heard about.” And yet, the film, which was written by Andy Siara and directed by Max Barbakow, is not a satirical take or a parody — or even a remake with a millennial sensibility. Though its cool soundtrack and overall ethos seem to lean in that direction.

Palm Springs movieInstead, it’s a smart, very funny, and often surprising romantic comedy about learning to live like there’s no tomorrow.

The two main characters obviously have opposite feelings about being stuck in their predicament. He is a slacker man-child who sees the situation as a way to avoid his actual reality. In fact, he’s been stuck in the loop for so long he’s forgotten what his life was like before it all started.

And she is a bit more frustrated. Sure, she does make the most of the situation at first, but the prospect of repeating her sister’s wedding day over and over makes Sarah feel trapped, and eager to get out.

Despite their opposite takes, Nyles and Sarah make a charming pair, and that’s thanks in large part to the two stars’ winning chemistry. This may be Samberg’s best-ever performance, and Milioti (who first gained notice starring in the Broadway adaptation of Once), is a well cast foil who more than holds her own among the craziness.

At one point, Sarah asks Nyles what the point of living is when you’re stuck in such a situation, and he says, in perfect existential-wisdom fashion, “I think your best bet is just to learn how to suffer existence.” In other words, if life is a constant state of purgatory, the least we can do is make the most of it, so it’s not complete hell.

And isn’t that a message many of us could use right about now, when it seems like we’re never gonna get out of quarantine?

Like so many other movies that have gone direct-to-streaming this year, Palm Springs was originally set to be released in theaters, before COVID-19 derailed that plan. Thankfully, at just about 90 minutes, it plays very well on the small screen, providing a cool and refreshing respite from the hot temperatures outside. And because it’s already on a subscription service, and isn’t a rental, you can watch it again and again and again, without having to pay $20 every time.

That’s one time loop I know I would love to get stuck in.

So here’s to Mai Tais. And here’s to Palm Springs. Give this one a stream today. And tomorrow. And the day after that, as well.

I’m giving it a B+.

One Response to “One of Those Infinite Time-Loop Situations You Might Have Heard About”

  1. Dr Andrew Albert July 15, 2020 at 9:11 pm #

    And isn’t that a message many of us could use right about now, when it seems like we’re never gonna get out of quarantine? yes, for sure Martin. Thank you for sharing!

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