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Palm Springs

Let’s call this composition ‘Wasted by the Pool.’ Props to Cristin Milioti for nailing it!

Synopsis:  Two people at a wedding are caught in a time loop. (Streaming on Hulu)

I suppose if you were trapped in a time loop, there’d be worse places to be stuck than in Palm Springs, California. Trippy desert landscapes and plenty of sunshine.  And with no consequences, I’d advise maxing out your credit card on spa treatments, room service and minibar raids.

Palm Springs is in the Groundhog Day genre: someone is stuck in a time loop and keeps reliving the same day. In this iteration, Cristin Milioti (Tony award winner for Once & the mom in How I Met Your Mother) is Sarah. Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is Nyles. They are both at a Palm Springs resort to attend a wedding.  Nyles’ girlfriend knows the couple and the bride is Sarah’s sister, Tala (Camila Mendes). Poor Ms. Mendes, she has a tiny role that seems only one professional step up from a shampoo commercial. 

Sarah is a cynic and marriage is one of the things that she’s cynical about.  If this movie was shot in the aughts, we’d  know that she’s a sardonic and disaffected sort of woman because her eyes would be lined round and round with black eyeliner. Nyles is obviously hovering around forty and has seemingly been  living out his own version of Groundhog Day; he acts like a frat boy a few years  out of college with some money to burn.

Nyles has been stuck in this Palm Springs time loop for some time now (months’ worth?) and passes the time lazing around the pool, drinking and hooking up. Ennui has definitely set in. Although he does have one constructive use of his time: polishing a toast to the new couple.

Sarah is new to the scene and blames Nyles for being ushered into the loop. So does someone named Roy who has a real vendetta against Nyles. Maybe he  lived in the vicinity of Nyles’ erstwhile frat house. 

Gazing in wonder at a dinosaur in the distance—or possibly it’s a lizard a few yards away. Only the peyote knows.

The day grinds on, re-setting each morning. But at least Sarah and Nyles have each other  and they get along fairly well in their maddening limbo.   Nyles tries to accept being stuck, although he’s not happy about it. For one thing, it seems his ditzy girlfriend is sneaking around looking for a hookup — which conveniently lets him roam free himself.  Meanwhile, Sarah is wigging out. She tries scheme after scheme to break out of the loop. Maybe, she wonders,  she can drive out of it? Or pay a penance of some sort,  like  spending a day force feeding herself an entire season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

By and by, Sarah and Myles spend much of their never-ending day together: road tripping to the desert for a night under the stars, partying at a dive bar, pulling pranks at the wedding reception and even having some probing conversations. But mostly quips, and that’s fun for us.  Feelings are inevitable, but a dark clouds hangs over their day/days. Sadly, they cannot move forward. But a question hangs in the air of this otherwise fluffy film… can someone move forward as a person while stuck in time? 

With so much of the world doing their best to quarantine during this pandemic year, many viewers will relate to the Groundhog dilemma. How to break out of the Bubble?  When that’s not safely possible, how about making the best use of your time anyway?  At first, Nyles and Sarah go bacchanalian to pass the time: no Peloton-ing  or studying for the bar for them.  At least I’m baking banana bread!

 Being in Palm Springs seems a decent place to while away your time . And streaming Palm Springs turns out to be a pretty decent way to while away the time too. (Although New Zealand looks the safest, happiest place to be these days. Wish I was a Kiwi right now. The person, or the bird, but not the fruit.)

Movie Loon’s Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade:   B

Cut to the Chase:   Escapist fun with a dark-ish edge.

Humor Highlight: Sarah’s many ideas for escaping the time loop.

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