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Stuck in Palm Springs

For years Hollywood has been trying and failing to hook us on a love story capable of living up to the standards set by the golden age of rom-coms, the early 2000s. I’ve finally found a success story. Palm Springs is dreamy, steeped in science fiction, and miraculously makes classic tropes feel refreshing. It is set in (crazy plot twist) Palm Springs, California, at a destination wedding. The desert is vast, the guests are vibrant although plagued by a myriad of vices, and the scenery is filled with aquamarine pool water and jagged landscapes. Our female protagonist is the maid of honor; her younger sister: the bride. The characters are complex and not entirely likable, yet you find yourself in love with them by the end of the film. 

Cristin Milioti plays our messy maid of honor, Sarah, whom we are introduced to as she is drinking far too much wine and is somehow caught off guard that she is expected to speak at her sister’s wedding. Nyles (Andy Samberg), our hero, jumps in to save her, captivating the guests’ attention with a witty and emotional speech all while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Sarah, however, is no damsel in distress, and becomes Nyles’ partner in crime. After wandering too far into the desert with Nyles and falling into a magical cave, Sarah realizes that she is forced to relive this wedding day over and over again accompanied only by Nyles. Yes, I know the Groundhog Day trope is hackneyed, but this version of it feels fresh. Repeating each day is crucial to helping us understand both characters. We embark on a journey with a woman who is self-loathing and a man who has fallen into a purposeless pit of depression, as he has been stuck in the time loop long before Sarah arrived (hence the casualness of his Hawaiian shirt). The time loop creates a world in which only Sarah and Nyles’ worst and best parts of themselves are the focus, since every other character is oblivious and irrelevant to their circumstances. 

For the beginning of the film, we laugh at Nyles’ and Sarah’s mischief in a reality where their actions have no consequences. They interrupt and destroy the wedding, they run away, commit many suicides, choreograph dance numbers, throw birthday parties, and consume excessive amounts of beer. Every morning, they wake up back in Palm Springs. We watch as they fall for each other, but we also see the glaring issues with their characters. Sarah wakes up every morning reminded of a terrible mistake she made the night before. Nyles wakes up elated to see Sarah but utterly detached from everything around him. Nyles is afraid to develop a genuine emotional connection, and Sarah doesn’t find herself deserving of his affection. They are not your usual cookie-cutter rom-com protagonists. Sarah isn’t oblivious and innocent, and Nyles isn’t sweeping her off her feet. 

The film puts you in a world of sci-fi and silliness while still feeling heartbroken over the people you are watching desperately try to fall in love and repeatedly fail. It seems like every time they get close, some emotional barrier gets in the way. Nyles, despite all of his defensive humor and unseriousness, has fallen hard for Sarah, and Sarah is struggling immensely to look past his nonchalance and stop pushing him away. 

Big surprise, in rom-com fashion, they find their way back to each other and out of the time loop in a reunion that, I am afraid to admit, made me sob. Rom-com girls are normally impeccably imperfect. Sometimes they are ditsy or messy or have another quirk, but otherwise they are exactly the right amount of lovable. In this case, Nyles and Sarah fall in love with all of each other, even the parts that are flawed. Palm Springs gives the people who feel too dysfunctional a chance to be loved. We see the most screwed up parts of ourselves in these characters, and leave the film with hope for our own romantic endeavors. 

Photo Credit: Jessica Perez/Hulu



Astrid Young is a freshman in the College currently undecided but focused on government. She might end up in law school but she’s not sure. She loves good music and snowboarding.


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