Saying that 2020 is a total mind fuck feels like an understatement. But that’s basically where we’re at. More now than ever, we’re all turning to movies and shows to keep our minds off the absolute shitshow that is this year. It feels like there are constantly new movies to watch, and Hulu’s latest offering, Palm Springs is the one people are really talking about now. After seeing a bunch of my friends talking about it, I had to check it out. And let me say, if 2020 was a movie, it would be Palm Springs.
Living life since March feels a lot like Groundhog Day — we pretty much do the same thing everyday. And that’s basically the premise of Palm Springs. Andy Samberg’s character Nyles wakes up and lives the same day over and over again. It’s the day of his girlfriend’s best friend’s wedding, and during the reception, he saves the maid of honor (the bride’s sister) by making her speech for her. They begin to bond over the course of night, leaving the party and heading out into the desert night. When Nyles is shot by a man named Roy with an arrow, he tries to escape to a cave. Sarah, the maid of honor (played by Christian Milioti,) follows him, despite his warning not to. They’re both sucked into a vortex.
We all then learn that Nyles is stuck in a time loop, and now Sarah is too. And there’s really nothing either of them can do about it. While Nyles is totally fine with reliving the day forever and ever (he’s already lost track of how long he’s been in the loop), Sarah is determined to find a way out.
After watching Palm Springs, I legitimately said “what the actual fuck did I just watch?” out loud. Because that is the only thing I can take away from this movie. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that I have no idea why the fuck I should care about it. As a viewer, I can’t figure out why I should care about the characters. They don’t have a real sort of character arc during the course of the movie. Nyles isn’t particularly likeable or interesting, he’s mostly just apathetic about his situation in life. So he spends his days floating in a pool on a pizza floatie and engaging in debauchery. Like, he spends an inordinate amount of time drinking. Sarah has a little more substance, but really not much. She’s just angrier because she’s reliving her own shitty choices.
Honestly? The only remotely interesting character in Palm Springs is Roy, played brilliantly by JK Simmons. He’s the first victim of Nyles’ time loop, hell bent on revenge. And he’s the only one who deserves to be angry, because he’s the only one with anything at stake. He accepts his fate, but of any of the characters, he’s the only one who deserves more than what he gets.
A lot of people think this movie is great and brilliant, and I find myself asking “what’s the point?” You could say the same thing about the last four months of this year, can’t you? What’s the fucking point? I don’t think I was even entertained midway through the movie, but I had to watch the whole thing. I was hoping I’d figure it out and not feel like I wasted two hours of my life. Spoiler alert, I definitely feel like I wasted two hours of my life.
Palm Springs is purposely ambiguous thanks to Andy Samberg signing on as a producer. It makes me wonder what the script was like before he signed on. Generally, I like movies that leave room for interpretation. But I would have liked a little more direction. Also, it’s a rom-com without much rom or com. The romance element seems like a forced device to force Nyles to “grow” and it really falls flat because that trope feels tired. He has nothing to grow from or towards. The romantic plot is only there to give them a way to get to the end of the movie.
In theory, Palm Springs is full of elements that make for a good movie, but this one just…doesn’t. Maybe it’s because we live in such a time of ambiguity that I need something more concrete. Or maybe I’m just not millennial enough for this (that doesn’t feel right.) All I know is that I’m more confused after watching the movie than I was before I started. Not even Peter Gallagher and his amazing eyebrows can make it enjoyable.
Some people may find the apathy, ambivalence, and pointlessness entertaining. But life feels too much like that already for me to be into it. Maybe that’s why I don’t like Palm Springs — its themes parallel life too closely right now for it to be enjoyable.
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