Hot Take: ‘Palm Springs’ is unfairly underrated

Derin Savasan / The Tufts Daily

This column contains spoilers for “Palm Springs.”

A wonderful thing about hot takes is that everyone has them. You just have to get to know the person a little. Who knows, you may even share the same hot take! (Though, technically, this would make it a “cold take.”)

One thing before I get into this week’s column — this isn’t actually my first column! I wrote one on Pixar’s “Ratatouille” (2007) last week!

But enough with the chit-chat, let’s get down to business — Hulu’s unfairly underrated feature “Palm Springs” (2020).

Look, there have been many riffs on the “Groundhog Day” (1993) formula — the protagonist stuck in a time loop of which the only way out is character growth. And I agree, these time loop movies can sometimes feel as if the movies themselves are stuck in a time loop. But each subsequent iteration has brought a new twist to this subgenre in some way.

“50 First Dates” (2004) avoided the unexplainable metaphysics of it all for a rom-com that was equal parts Adam Sandler being a goofball and Drew Barrymore having the memory of a goldfish. “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014) added aliens, Tom Cruise and his many stunts. “Before I Fall” (2017) was a hot mess, but it retold the story from a teen’s perspective. And Netflix’s “Russian Doll” (2019) revitalized it with an episodic approach.

Max Barbakow’s witty and intelligent “Palm Springs” did this too, but altered the equation by putting two people into the same time loop and forcing them to repeat the same day over and over again until they learn the error of their ways together. Considering this movie came out during the midst of quarantine — when most of us were stuck at home and forced to relive the same day with the same people — the premise was pretty relevant.

Meet Nyles (Andy Samberg), a carefree guy who (we realize later on) was stuck in this time loop for over 40 years, repeating his friend’s Palm Springs wedding over and over again. During one of those days, he meets Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the reluctant, troubled maid of honor, and — unintentionally and drunkenly — leads her to this magical cave in the desert that put him in the time loop in the first place. As expected, things get quite complicated as the two try to escape the venue, themselves and each other.

Just close your eyes and try to imagine spending the rest of your “meaningless existence” with the same person. Imagine being stuck in a static purgatory where meaningful personal growth can only be witnessed by a sad, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing jerk that is suffering alongside you. Imagine being surrounded by thousands of strangers in a world with limitless possibilities and yet winding up with the same one every night and waking up in the same bed every morning. And imagine falling in love with that jerk. It must truly suck.

What I enjoyed the most about this movie was that it explored these imaginary scenarios in a very light, yet existentialist manner. I honestly don’t know how I’d classify its genre. Rom-com? Maybe. Sci-fi? Definitely. Nihilistic and existentialist, forcing you to look at your own life differently? Hell yeah! Considering the fact that the movie appeals to three different genres, I can’t believe how satisfactory the ending was! Now, that is the power of good screenwriting.

Like I said, I liked this movie a great deal. 


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