3.5 out of 5 stars
Palm Springs is a rather standard romantic comedy featuring a now-familiar science-fiction conceit – a time loop. Yep, Nyles (Andy Samberg) is stuck living the same day over and over again. Fortunately for him, unlike his ground-hogged predecessor, he wakes up every morning in sunny, warm, common-to-L.A. weekend getaway Palm Springs instead of snow-bound, podunk Punxatawny, Pennsylvania. If you’ve got to be trapped in the same day for all eternity, you at least want to be able to lounge in an infinity pool, right?
Nyles is in Palm Springs for a wedding. He’s the boyfriend of one of the bridesmaids, so he doesn’t really know anyone, or he used to no know anyone, but he’s already trapped in the limbo when the movie begins, so he knows all of them now. The effect is like being plopped into the middle of Groundhog Day when Phil has descended into the pit of his existential despair. I appreciated this decision by the filmmakers. It’s a tacit acknowledgement that this time-loop conceit isn’t original, so they dispense with the pretence and just get down to business. Of course complications particular to this film arise, and the film becomes its own experience and not just a sunny-set Groundhog Day. Palm Springs is a round-and-round-and-round trip that’s just trippy enough and wise enough to be worthwhile.
The Ecclesiastical question that animates the narrative is natural to the stuck-in-a-time-loop conceit. Even for those of us who wake up in new days every day, every day is kind of the same. Everything we do does seem “meaningless! meaningless!” ultimately. So where is the worth in life?
Ecclesiastes’ teacher commends enjoying our food and drink; relishing our youth; delighting in our loved ones; being proud of an honest day’s work; being grateful for the peace brought to us by minding the laws of the land; and yielding all to God. The teacher reiterates that it’s still all meaningless, but by the end of his story, he is willing to call it “perfectly pointless” (12:8, Common English Bible). I like that. Life is pointless, but it is also perfect. It is perfect because it is pointless. Our efforts are not for naught in the here and now, but they are in the grand scheme of things, because the grand scheme of things doesn’t depend on us. God’s got that, and God loves us, and God is faithful to us to carry us through.
So if you find yourself caught in a time-loop—we always kind of were, but perhaps we’re all a little more aware of it these days—rejoice! If you’re stuck in Palm Springs, maybe rejoice with a tad more situationally appropriate chill.