Women & Romcoms : Palm Springs (2019)
Updated: May 8, 2022
If you enjoyed Popstar : Never Stop Never Stopping and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Palm Springs is for you ! This time, Andy Samberg is taking on the romantic comedy with a touch of sci-fi. These are genres I never thought I would see associated together. But after all, why not ?
I am not a fan of Andy Samberg's humour but I was very curious. I knew from The Empire magazine mentions of the Sundance film that Andy Samberg's character was stuck in a time loop. There's definitely a Groundhog Day feeling but where does the sci fi come in ? I was almost expecting space ships but of course it was more subtle than that.
Nyles (Andy Samberg) is stuck at a wedding with a girlfriend he does not like reliving the same day over and over. He does not remember anything that happened before he arrived there.
One day, the sister of the bride Sarah (Cristin Milioti) follows him into a suspicious-looking cave as he is pursued by a masked man trying to kill him. He asks her not to follow him but she goes in and is taken into the cave. She wakes up the morning of the wedding. They are now both stuck in a time loop. After all, misery loves company !
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Before Sarah gets involved, nothing happens. The narrative does not move and he endlessly relives the same day. It's her arrival that kicks the film off. Although they have pretty much the same screen time, she has the key role in the narrative structure. She is the reason why he has to change. Instead of the damsel in distress being saved by the prince, the princess saves the prince and changes him for the better.
The whole film happens in the same setting although we keep discovering new things. We explore the area around but we also see what happens when their actions are delayed a few seconds. When Sarah sleeps over for a few minutes, we see why she is so guarded and it adds another layer to her character. The concept is simple but extremely effective and entertaining.
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The comedy does not prevent the film from making quite deep statements. Sarah has a track record of bad decisions she does not take ownership of while Nyles keep running away from change and commitment. She needs to take back control of her life while he needs to learn how to be vulnerable. When most romcoms will link change to the relationship and the protagonists' wish to be together, Palm Springs takes another path.
Sarah snaps herself out of her destructive behaviours. While Nyles needs her to change, she does not. It had to come from her. When her decision is made, she comes up with a plan and he is merely invited to tag along as they try to get out of the loop. On the other hand, Nyles needs to change but he doesn't seem to be up for the work. He changes when he knows he will lose Sarah forever if he doesn't. He opens up and accepts change when she is ready to leave with or without him.
It is a breath of fresh air for a romcom. In itself, changing for a better relationship is not something bad. It is only because films have been picturing women changing to fit the man and his life that it becomes problematic. The reversal here is a very welcome change for modern romances. Men can be vulnerable too. They can change for their love interests too.
I really enjoyed Palm Springs because it is about a two-way relationship. In the structure and character arcs, it's never only Nyles or Sarah that needs to sacrifice, change or do something for the other. They need to go through the same journey but in different ways.
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The choice of Andy Samberg as a romcom lead is also a great way to offer a different depiction of masculinity. He is not mysterious, brooding or muscular. He is fun, enthusiastic and a little bit childish. His films and TV series allow men who do not fit the usual standards to see themselves on screen. And we need more of that !
To create a more positive approach to masculinity, we need to show it on screen. If we don’t boys will always feel the pressure to conform. Just like for little girls, we need heroes who are sensitive, caring, funny so the men of tomorrow can have positive role models which is why Andy Samberg's films are important. You can like him or hate him, he deserves some recognition for that.
Palm Springs is a fun, entertaining film that weirdly gets what many of us feel these days. If you feel like you are reliving the same day since March but you would like to at least have some nice weather, you will enjoy Palm Springs !