Palm Springs: Finding Meaning When Life is on Repeat

“Yeah. About that. So, this is today. Today is yesterday. And tomorrow is also today. It’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about,” said Nyles, the seemingly carefree protagonist of the romantic comedy, Palm Springs.

“Yeah. About that. So, this is today. Today is yesterday. And tomorrow is also today. It’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about,” said Nyles, the seemingly carefree protagonist of the romantic comedy, Palm Springs.

“Yeah. About that. So, this is today. Today is yesterday. And tomorrow is ….”

Okay, I’ll end the schtick. You probably saw what I did there. Palm Springs is a story in the same vein as Harold Ramis’s classic Groundhog Day, which in turn spawned Happy Death Day, Russian Doll, The Edge of Tomorrow, and others. Someone is forced to live the same day over…. and over…. and over…. and over. In turn, cosmic lessons ensue.

The way Palm Springs sets itself apart is how when we meet Nyles (Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), he has already lived the day perhaps thousands of times and has almost resigned himself to his fate.

Entwined into Nyles’ day is the doomed relationship with his live-in girlfriend (Meridith Hagner, Brightburn) and the wedding that she is standing up in. He is eventually joined in the time loop by sister-of-the bride, Sarah (Cristin Milioti, The Wolf of Wall Street). He feels rescued. Here is someone to share in his day and break up the monotony. As for her? Not so much. She is rightfully pissed. Further complicating matters is Roy (the always reliable J.K. Simmons), who hunts Nyles with a bow and arrow, for reasons not to be spoiled here.

Existential comedy

The R-rated Palm Springs is not to be considered just a risque version of Groundhog Day – although it is certainly that – nor it it a simple riff on it. As expected for a product produced by the Lonely Island team, this film treats its audience to its fill of laugh-out-loud moments.

But it also delivers an abundance of surprisingly deep themes sprinkled throughout, as Nyles and Sarah break up their side adventures with periods of philosophical conversations and questions about it means to live life. It’s about struggling to find a path forward. It’s about getting unstuck.

Additionally, it serves as a poignant allegory for mental illness, as illustrated in this excellent essay by Rob DiCristino of F This Movie (warning, it has major spoilers, so place a bookmark and return to it later if you haven’t watched the movie. It is well worth your time).

The tension of Nyles and Sarah is illustrated in this exchange between the two, as they try to process the predicament:

Nyles: I don’t know what it is. It could be life. It could be death. It might be a dream. I might be imagining you. You might be imagining me. It could be purgatory, or a glitch in the simulation that we’re both in. I don’t know. So, I decided a while ago to sort of give up and stop trying to make sense of things altogether, because the only way to really live in this is to embrace the fact that nothing matters.
Sarah: Well, then what’s the point of living?
Nyles: Well, we kind of have no choice but to live. So I think your best bet is just to learn how to suffer existence.

To Nyles, life had become something to endure. To Sarah, a chance she might be able to break out of painful life cycles and her own patterns of self destruction.

“[It speaks to] these bigger themes of what we’re doing with our time on this planet, trying to escape yourself, having to practice acceptance of who you are and taking responsibility.”

– Cristin Milioti

In an interview with the L.A. Times, Milioti describes the movie as an existential comedy.  

“I mean, there’s absolutely a love story at the center of it, but it also spoke to these bigger themes of what we’re doing with our time on this planet, trying to escape yourself, having to practice acceptance of who you are and taking responsibility. That’s one of my favorite parts about it. I think it’s an amalgamation of many things, as well as being so funny and moving,” she said.

How to live when feeling stuck

None of us are in a time loop (to this writer’s knowledge), but even still, a recent study revealed that 69 percent of people feel stuck in a routine and three out of ten are not happy with their lives of the daily grind.

There are ways to break out and it doesn’t involve quantum physics.

Ask yourself: What are my strengths, goals and passions? According to Psychology Today, it is helpful to ask the following questions:

  • What makes me happy?
  • What were my favorite things to do in the past?
  • What are my favorite things to do now?
  • When do I enjoy myself so much or become so committed to something that I lose track of time?
  • Who inspires me the most, and why?
  • What makes me feel good about myself?
  • What am I good at?

Working off from that list, get out of your comfort zone and surround yourself with like-minded people who hold similar aspirations. Doing life together goes a long way towards moving towards something. Easier said than done in the middle of a pandemic, yes, but find those positive pockets of social media. ZOOM into something new with a friend.

To move forward, we also have to learn to let go of the past. In Palm Springs, Nyles contends that everything is meaningless, but Sarah pushes back. They will still remember their actions even when nobody else will. It’s past. “Ignoring the past means you’re destined to repeat it,” she tells him.  She hits on a key point there. Our hurts and failures of the past can be a force of healing if we reframe it as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth – to forge a new path.

Let’s Move

To recap:

  • Make a list of your strengths, goals and passions.
  • Find like-minded people to join you and journey together.
  • Reframe anything from your past that may be paralyzing you and instead picture it as an opportunity for growth and healing.

To borrow a line from Jake King-Schreifels, which perfectly ecapsulates the spirit of the film, “Palm Springs sensitively suggests that tomorrow—and all of its uncertainty—is a risk worth taking.

Palm Springs is currently streaming on Hulu.

Palm Springs (2020)

Director: Max Barbakow

Screenwriter: Andy Siara

Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Meridith Hagner

Rated: R

Comments

  1. April

    So I had never even heard of this movie before. It might be a good one to watch with the hubs sometime this weekend after the kids go to bed. It sounds like it will have the laughs that hubby likes in a movie and the life lessons that I like in a movie. Win, win!

    1. Post
      Author
  2. Emma Irwin

    We stumbled across this movie the other night and we both commented on the parallels with this crazy situation covid’s got us in. I wish we’d been able to have as much fun as they did at times. It has given us the chance to reflect tho and try to make a few positive changes at least. Trying to stay positive as I start back to work tomorrow so a new groundhog chapter begins…

    1. Post
      Author
  3. Archit Garg

    Saw the movie last Friday thought it was interesting in parts … I loved the way how you started your blog it was bang on… I am a new blogger and saw your post on blogging for new bloggers … Feel free to share your thoughts on my new blog about how Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree helped me further my career as a Data Scientist https://bit.ly/31jlmy

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
  4. Laura

    It is true that these time loop movies really resonate with us when we feel like we’re stuck in a daily routine that never changes. Watching fictional characters dig their way out of this rut inspires us to do the same knowing that we don’t have the added weight of a supernatural force holding us there to break out of. Great post!

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *