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Film / Palm Springs

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"It's one of those... infinite time loop situations you might have heard about."

Palm Springs is a 2020 Scifi Rom Com, starring Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, and J. K. Simmons, and the latest in a long line of projects by Samberg's comedy troupe The Lonely Island.

While attending the Palm Springs destination wedding of her sister, Sarah (Milioti) encounters the carefree Nyles (Samberg), who has been stuck in a time-loop of the day of the wedding for years. Hilarity Ensues when Sarah accidentally becomes caught in the loop as well, and the two face the prospect of being trapped together for the foreseeable future.

Originally premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, it was jointly purchased by Neon and Hulu in a record-breaking deal note . It received a release in drive-in theaters in the US on July 10th, 2020, after the COVID-19 Pandemic forced the cancellation of a planned wide theatrical release. It was also released digitally on Hulu on the same date.

There are unmarked spoilers below. If you wish to remain completely unspoiled and only know about the basic Time Loop premise of the film, then you should not read further.

Tropes found in the film include:

  • The Alcoholic: Nyles and Sarah. Nyles is shown dealing with continued existence by copious amounts of alcohol. Sarah admits that she's someone who "fucks around and drinks too much". We also get hints that Roy had these tendencies that he gave up once he got married (hence seeing a kindred spirit in Nyles on the night they meet).
  • All There in the Manual: In the film, both Nana and Jerry use the Arabic word "Shukran" meaning "Thank you" without any explanation. The film reveals that both characters have the last name of "Schlieffen" and an early draft of the screenplay explains that Jerry is a refugee orphan whom Papa and Nana Schlieffen adopted from Sudan, explaining the appearance of the foreign word.
  • Ambiguous Ending: It seems like Sarah's plan worked and she and Nyles are free from the timeloop. It's strongly implied that Sarah gave Roy enough information that he could also escape if he chooses. However, the time loop cave still exists and there are dinosaurs seen in the background just before the credits roll making it unclear as to what timeline/reality Sarah and Nyles escaped into.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Downplayed. His preference seems to be women given the larger number of women he slept with (at one point he slips and confesses he's bedded Sarah over a thousand times), but Nyles casually tells Sarah that he had sex with Jerry during one of his loops. However, it seems to be more experimentation than genuine attraction.
    Jerry: I'm really glad I tried it, he's a sweet guy.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Nana's role in the story has some mysterious aspects to it. When Nana compliments Sarah and Nyles on their wedding speeches on different nights in the loop, her wording implies she may be aware of and also be caught in the time loop.
    Nana [to Nyles]: Dear, I've been to more weddings in my life than you can imagine...
    Nana [to Sarah]: Well, I suppose now that you'll be going soon. Good Luck.
  • And Starring: With Peter Gallagher. And J. K. Simmons.
  • The Antichrist: Played for laughs. Nyles briefly trolls Sarah that this is his true identity when he appears to summon the earthquake to open up the cave. It turns out that he simply knows what time the earthquake hits each day and milks it for full dramatic effect.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Despite his fully nihilist worldview, Nyles shows shades of this. "The pain is real" seems to be his core philosophy. He generally tries to avoid causing pain, and even bring joy to others (as when he gives a kid a hundred dollars and tells him to "spend it all today"). Even though he knows everything will reset, minimizing the unhappiness in the moment is important to him.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Sarah drops a long rant about Nyles during their argument after being arrested for hitting Roy with a police car, he responds to her ending "I never would have fucked you" remark with "we fucked a thousand times." After he revealed that all it took was to bail her out of the wedding speech for them to hook up, it motivates her to start trying to figure out how to escape.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Roy ends up hitting it off with Nyles — and getting himself stuck in the time loop — because he confides to Nyles at the bar that "marriage is a bottomless pit of sorrow". It turns out that he was at the wedding in the first place as an excuse to get away from his wife and kids and party for the first time in a long time, leading to Roy's ill-fated exclamation that his drug-fueled bender with Nyles is "the greatest night of my life" and that he "never wants it to end". He comes to regret this, deeply, and a big part of his Heel Realization is learning to love his family again and appreciate what he has.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: We are introduced to Sarah shown drinking heavily the night of the wedding, balking at having to make a toast to her sister's happiness, and telling Nyles how much she resents being the black sheep of the family living in Tala's shadow. It's a testament to Sarah's character development that her last night in the time loop has her giving a truly heartfelt speech about what a great person Tala is and sincerely wishing her nothing but happiness in the future.
  • Bland-Name Product: Nyles' beverage of choice is a fictional brand of beer that comes in brightly colored red cans. A Freeze-Frame Bonus indicates that it's called "Akupara" beer (there's also a neon advertisement for it in the bar), which is the name of the World-Tortoise from Hindu mythology and a symbol of eternity.
  • Butt-Monkey: Randy. He is twice shot down by Sarah during the wedding reception when he invites her to dance. He is a Nervous Wreck and freaks out several times in the story. During one loop, Sarah even tricks him into walking in on Trevor and Misty while blindfolded and naked from the waist down.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Although we don't find out too much about Sarah's pre-loop life, she seems to have been pretty directionless and not very accomplished. However, when motivated, she manages to learn enough quantum physics to escape the time loop, showing that she is very intelligent.
  • Cain and Abel: Sarah is the older child and the one treated as a failure by her family, while her sister Tala is the All-Loving Hero everyone admires. It's implied this is why she was willing to sabotage Tala's marriage by sleeping with her fiance.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Nyles recognizing Sarah by the "Orchid Explosion" scent of the hair product she's wearing.
    • Spuds' pet goat, which appears in the very first shot of the movie, plays a major role in the ending.
  • Closed Circle: Played with. The rules of the time loop are more flexible than the ones in Groundhog Day in that the time loop only resets when you fall asleep even if you go past midnight and well into the next day. Also, there are no obstacles keeping one there, so you can travel anywhere you like, for as long as you can stay awake. But it's unpleasant, exhausting, and ultimately futile, because you always end up back at the Palm Springs hotel eventually.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: As is traditional for a "Groundhog Day" Loop plot there's a fair amount of this, including Nyles and Sarah staging a terrorist attack at the wedding and apparently greatly enjoying how genuinely freaked out the guests are despite the ridiculousness of it all. That said, Nyles is pretty insistent on never actually hurting anyone during the loops — and alludes darkly to having learned from experience that even if it has no permanent consequences the memory of doing so is reason enough to avoid it.
  • Commitment Issues:
    • Nyles. It's established that even before the time loop started, he was the kind of guy who's made deeply uncomfortable by weddings because he's afraid of commitment and doesn't really believe in true love (and is only with his girlfriend Misty for the sex). Being trapped in the time loop and unable to move into the future is a pretty unsubtle metaphor for this condition, and his decision to take the risk and leave the loop to be with Sarah signals his willingness to move beyond it.
    • Sarah. It's not played up as much but it's revealed that she was in a marriage that she knew would end badly even as she was walking down the aisle, but went through with it anyway.
    • Roy. He ends up in the time loop because he shares this sentiment from the other side of commitment and reveals that "a bad marriage is a bottomless pit of despair".
  • Country Matters: Trevor the wedding celebrant is an Australian, and one of his major lines in the film is yelling "Oi open up ya cunts!" after Nyles steals his bag of cocaine.
  • Creator Cameo: Dr. Clifford V. Johnson, a frequent science consultant for movie franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has a cameo consulting with Sarah about her quantum mechanics hypothesis via video chat. One of his recommendations as a science consultant for this movie was that when Sarah was seeking the advice of scientists, they should show diversity in the science field and not just the cliche of "old white men in lab coats". This led to the unexpected invitation for him, an African-American scientist, to appear as one of her consultants as himself.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: In one loop, Nyles hooks up with Daisy the bartender and she revealed that she once hit a man in the very car they're having sex in and she doesn't think he ever walked again.
  • Determinator: Sarah. She becomes so determined to escape the time loop that she starts studying quantum physics, and ends up achieving graduate-level knowledge in the subject, entirely through books and online physics courses.
  • The Ditz: Misty. Her speech at the wedding reception starts with the tired trope of quoting the dictionary definitions of the words "love" and "commitment", then suddenly ends. That was her entire speech.
  • Double Meaning: Sarah gives a touching, poignant dedication to Tala, then points to her new husband and says "Don't fuck this up". Abe and Tala both chuckle, but Sarah gives him a steely glare and Abe's demeanor becomes deadly serious. Thus she's able to play it off as a standard, playful warning in public, but both Sarah and Abe know that she's referring to the fact that they slept together, and she can ruin him if he doesn't change his ways.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Nyles and Sarah both indulge in this, thanks to the immortality the time loop gives them. Such as Sarah standing up in a convertible only to lose her balance and fall out onto the road — with Nyles just laughing and leaving her body behind — and an instance of Nyles and Sarah stealing a prop plane for a joyride and flying like crazy as they run out of gas and crash.
  • Driven to Suicide: It doesn't take long for Sarah to turn to this, only to realize that she will still continue waking up regardless. Nyles has tried it many, many times in the past without success and actively encourages her to skip this phase.
  • The Fog of Ages: Nyles has no idea how long he has been stuck in the time loop. He claims to not even remember what he did for a living yet immediately after he escapes, he remembers he has a dog that has been staying with his neighbor the whole time. So it's possible he was just using poor memory as an excuse to avoid talking about his past.
  • Foreshadowing: There are many narrative breadcrumbs that hint at Sarah's Wham Shot reveal. Doubles as Rewatch Bonus as some of the hints don't stand out as hints until you've learned about Sarah's personality and see how she acts which is common element of time loop stories.
    • Following Sarah's awakening on her very first loop, she immediately looks upset because she realizes whose room she's in. Then she bolts from the room when she hears the shower start. The scene cuts to the living room with a close up focus on a picture of Abe and Tala.
    • While in the living room, Howard comes up to Sarah saying he checked her room at six and didn't find her there. Which is because she spent the night in Abe's room after having sex with him.
    • At the burrito stand after Nyles recounts his sexual escapades while in the loop, he asks Sarah about her sex life. Her demeanor chills considerably and she goes on a serious rant about the wedding being bullshit. Understandable as her last sexual encounter was with Abe and this leads to her belief that a karmic cleansing will allow her to exit the loop.
    • At Spud's firing range, when Sarah learns that the target they're shooting at is a picture of the man who stole Spud's wife, she promptly blows the entire head off.
    • During the "Barracuda" montage where Sarah starts enjoying the fun she's having each day with Nyles, one loop begins with her waking in bed smiling then she notices the bathroom door and her face falls into a look of regret.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: We don't get to see much of pre-time loop Nyles, but it's clear he's only at the wedding because his girlfriend is a bridesmaid, to the point where he's consistently referred to as "Misty's boyfriend". By the time we see him, well entrenched in the time loop, he isn't taking anything seriously anymore, wears swimming trunks and a Hawaiian shirt to the wedding ceremony, and is often bluntly honest in his speech.
  • Going Fur a Swim: Sarah's signature outfit during most of the time loop is a garish faux-fur leopard jacket over a one-piece bathing suit.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Nyles' signature polka dot boxer shorts, which he seems to never take off, even wearing them under his swimming trunks in the pool.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The time loop is caused by a mysterious glowing rift in a rocky hill. Anyone who enters the rift is sucked into the time loop, repeating the same day whenever they lose consciousness, die or re-enter the rift.
  • The Hedonist: Once Nyles settles into the time-loop, his goal is to simply enjoy himself with food, drink, and sex while expending as little effort as possible.
  • Heel Realization: Roy gets a big one after Sarah puts him in the hospital following his most recent attack on Nyles.
  • Here We Go Again!: The movie ends with Nyles and Sarah getting caught by the family who actually live in Nyles' "safe house", showing us that even though they're back in the real world these two good-natured delinquents aren't going to live a life that's anything close to ordinary.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Roy impersonates a state trooper and ambushes Nyles when Sarah gets pulled over for speeding.
  • Implacable Man: Subverted. Nyles views Roy as this, and never tries to fight him whenever Roy shows up. Sarah gets tired of this situation, realizes that Roy is just a Badass Normal, and hits him with a police car.
  • In Medias Res: Zig-Zagged Trope. While we do get to see how Sarah gets caught in the time loop and her first experience of it, the initial 14 minutes of the story follows Nyles as the viewpoint character who has already been in it for years. We get little hints about his acclimated life in the time loop but never learn how he got caught in the first place.
  • It's All About Me: It doesn't take much for Sarah's parents and friends to conclude in loops where she doesn't show up, that it's because she wouldn't be the centre of attention and she can't take it.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Nyles tells Sarah that they're stuck in "one of those infinite time-loop things you may have heard about" to acknowledge that it's a well-worn trope.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Nyles pretends he's the long-lost son of an older guy he knows named Spuds, after learning about how Spuds had lost his virginity years ago to a woman, claiming he's the result. It's all just to get a free ride from Spuds to catch Sarah before she enters the cave.
  • Manchild: Andy Samberg is typecast to some degree as one of these. While he does experience some despair from the time loop, he adapts pretty well, and ultimately becomes quite comfortable living in what is essentially an eternal, consequence-free, vacation. Life in the time loop is boring and pointless, but also safe, comfortable, predictable, and undemanding.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Downplayed. While Nyles does use the looping to learn a lot about everyone at the wedding, and does take advantage of that knowledge to seduce various people, he never really manipulates anyone there for his advantage and has a strict policy against inducing trauma on people because of the painful memories it leaves with him.
  • Maurice Chevalier Accent: Sarah bizarrely adopts one when she reveals herself as the supervillain who planted a bomb in the wedding cake.
  • Meaningful Echo: Nyles is involved in a Noodle Incident that make him realize that "nothing is worse than slowly dying in the ICU" which he hated because the pain was real and remains in his memory. When Roy explains that his Heel Realization came from when the nurses in the hospital didn't want him to fall into a coma and kept him awake and in pain, Nyles repeats the line.
  • Meaningful Name: Try and convince us that "Nyles" isn't a fun expression of the nihilism his character embodies.
  • Missing Mom: Sarah's mother died when she was young.
  • Montage: Used a lot in this film, in order to show the passage of numerous repeated days despite the movie itself only clocking in at 90 minutes.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Nyles and Sarah are about to have sex in the desert when, out of nowhere, an arrow pierces Nyles' back, and Roy begins stalking them like something out of a slasher movie. Sarah reacts with all the horror one would expect from such a shocking and horrific sight.
    • The time loops resetting cause this to happen a few times, most notably when Abe gets a fork in the face during a fight, before it loops straight back to the wedding with Abe perfectly fine and smiling.
  • The Multiverse: Mentioned by name when Nyles and Sarah are discussing what happens to the other people in their world after the time loop resets. Seems to be confirmed, when Nyles and Sarah's successful escape leaves Roy stuck in the loop with a "normal" version of Nyles who never experienced the loop.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: It's heavily implied that one of the reasons Sarah reacts so poorly to being in the time loop, and so quickly becomes Driven to Suicide, is because each morning she's forced to wake up facing her biggest mistake and the worst thing she's ever done: sleeping with her sister's fiance the night before their wedding.
  • Nervous Wreck: Randy is one of these although it's mostly Played for Laughs. He's shown having FreakOuts when the earthquake occurs during the wedding ceremony or when Nyles keeps appearing uninvited in the Wilder private space at the hotel.
  • Nice Girl: Tala is the sweetest and kindest character in the film to the point of consoling Sarah when they were kids, despite being younger. She donated her bone marrow to help out Nico too. Sarah warmly praises Tala for this in her wedding speech, admitting she's a much better person.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: It turns out that, by randomly attacking Nyles on one of the nights he's trying to seduce Sarah, and therefore getting Sarah stuck in the loop with the two of them, Roy was the one who started the chain of events by which he and Nyles both eventually get free.
  • Noodle Incident: Nyles makes references to at least one incident where his escape was after dying painfully and slowly in a hospital.
  • The Place: Palm Springs, California. The creative seed for this film was the writer thinking of all the weddings he'd attended in Palm Springs (one of the most popular wedding destinations for Southern Californians) and wanting to do a movie set over a Palm Springs wedding weekend, with the "Groundhog Day" Loop concept only coming later.
  • Post–Wake-Up Realization: The major Wham Shot of the movie takes place as we find out about where Sarah was waking up each time the loop resets. It turns out, Sarah had slept with Abe, her sister's fiance, the night before the wedding and the guilt she feels over this is makes being caught in the time loop particularly bad. When her relationship with Nyles was good, it allowed her the distraction of quickly getting out of bed and avoiding the situation, but after her falling out, she returns to the painful realization and dedicates herself to finding a way out of the loop.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: Played with. Sarah slept with her sister's fiance the night before the wedding. From what we learn of her, if time had just kept flowing this would have been another one of her poor life choices. However, being caught in the loop forces her to wake up every morning in Abe's bed and suffer her guilt over and over again.
  • Really Gets Around: Nyles' flashbacks show that he took advantage of the loop to have sex with all sorts of people and try new things. When talking to Sarah who is now in the loop with him, he claims he grew weary of the work it takes to seduce someone and decided to coast through each day with minimal effort. However, when he reveals that he lied about never sleeping with Sarah and actually bedded her a thousand times, it casts doubt on how truthful he was about the rest of his claims.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Nyles and Sarah take full advantage of their ability to get away with a lot in the loop. The most audacious becomes acting out a bizarre action film/pirate fantasy involving a bomb in the wedding cake during the toast at the wedding.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • Upon repeated viewing, it becomes obvious that Nyles telling Sarah he never slept with her in any of the previous loops is Blatant Lies as you can see how many of his interactions with her are rehearsed and choreographed, right down to reacting on cue to Funny Background Events such as working "leg up" into his conversation as Misty and Trevor carry on behind him.
    • It's pretty obvious that Daisy the bartender is into Nyles and disappointed that she doesn't catch his attention, rather than just being annoyed at his behaviour at the wedding.
    • A lot of Nyles's actions at the beginning, such as his boredom with easily-obtainable sex with Misty and his perfectly-executed moves on the dance floor, make more sense once you know about the time loop.
  • Running Gag: No one in the wedding party knows who Nyles is, and he never feels the need to identify himself as anything more than Misty's boyfriend.
  • Sadist: Since neither can die, Roy's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Nyles seems to focus on causing him as much fear and pain as possible.
  • Shout-Out: When Nyles picks a fight with the bartender in order to steal his car keys, he starts off by yelling "I'm an adult!", a reference to the song "Threw It on the Ground" by The Lonely Island.
  • Signature Scent: Sarah is identified by the "Orchid Explosion" hair mist she wears at the wedding.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: When we first meet Sarah she's dressed in a bridesmaid's gown for the wedding, and for a while that's the main way we see her dressed. After she's fully given into nihilism and accepted the time loop, she switches to swanning around in a garish leopard-print jacket worn over a one-piece bathing suit. This mirrors a mostly-unseen similar shift in Nyles' backstory, where on the first few loops he was still wearing a formal suit and tie to attend the wedding, before shifting to just wearing a Hawaiian shirt over his bathing trunks the whole day.
  • Spiritual Antithesis:
    • To Russian Doll. Both have a pair of people trapped in the loop, and details their attempts to escape. However, Russian Doll is a much darker story, and is played for more drama and with higher stakes.
    • To the Twilight Zone episode Try, Try, which was released less than a month before. Both of them include the perspective of the female protagonist outside the loop looking in to the male trapped inside, with both of them having the male tailor his behavior over a period of time in an attempt to seduce her. But while this film plays it generally for comedy, Try, Try plays it out as a horror story.
  • Straw Nihilist: Nyles. Justified because he's been trapped in the loop for an extremely long period of time, he eventually decides that the only thing that matters is avoiding temporary pain, because while his existence is meaningless due to the loops, the physical pain he can suffer during them isn't, nor is the emotional trauma because his memory is left intact.
  • The Stinger: Used after the credits roll to show that Roy did get the message that Sarah left for him and confirms that both Sarah & Nyles got out of the loop.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path:
    • Roy is apparently a bow hunter given that he prefers to hunt down Nyles with a bow and arrow most of the time. He even gives Nyles a friendly arrow through the heart for old times' sake after their last conversation.
    • Played for Laughs when Nyles and Sarah play out the "There's a bomb in the wedding cake!" scenario — Nyles' expert means of defusing the bomb involves attaching it to a crossbow bolt and shooting it into the air so it explodes harmlessly overhead.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: This movie shamelessly has fun with explosions such as Nyles and Sarah stealing a plane only to have it crash and explode or them planting a bomb in the wedding cake that Nyles propels into the air to harmlessly explode, etc. Explosives end up playing a quite serious role in Sarah's plan to finally escape the time loop.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Nyles is the main POV character for the vast majority of the film, it also switches to Sarah on several occasions and Roy in The Stinger.
  • There Is No God: Stated word for word by Nyles — not that he has any actual knowledge of the supernatural, but it seems to be a reasonable conclusion to come to after being trapped for decades in a quantum time loop for no obvious reason.
  • Time Loop Fatigue: Nyles has been in the loop long enough to be quite jaded at the start of the film. He tries to deal with it by drinking heavily and making little effort to do anything.
  • Token Black Friend: Jerry Schlieffen, who is also a Twofer Token Minority — he gets no characterization other than being just a cool, charming guy that has no involvement in the wedding drama and in one loop is Nyles' Gay Option when he's "experimenting".
  • The Tooth Hurts: Tala slips and falls running over to the pool when Sarah is yelling at Nyles, breaking three of her front teeth. Her dad finds a dentist to glue them before the wedding (of course, this all resets the next loop).
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The fact it's a "Groundhog Day" Loop story and that Nyles is trapped in it already for decades or that there is a resentful guy trying to kill him for getting him stuck, too, are all intended to be a big twist. Too bad the entire marketing was based on This is a time loop comedy! gimmick, making the set-up moot.
  • Wham Line: "We fucked a thousand times."
  • Wham Shot: The reveal that Sarah wakes up on every reset in bed after having slept with Abe, her sister's fiance, the night before their wedding.
  • What You Are in the Dark: While he's free of any consequences for his actions, Nyles still doesn't want to hurt anyone as he claims he still has to live with the guilt of knowing what he did even if the other person never will.
  • Within Arm's Reach: After Nyles reveals that Sarah slept with her sister's fiancée on the night of their wedding, he tackles Nyles. Nyles grabs a fork that fell off the table and stabs him in the face with it.
  • Wicked Stepmother: At the very least, Sarah and her stepmother clearly don't get along. Sarah angrily corrects Nyles when he assumes Pia is her mother, and in time loops where Sarah skips the wedding, Pia is quick to assume that Sarah left because Tala's wedding wouldn't be about her.
  • You Didn't Ask: At the end of the movie, Sarah learns that Nyles has a dog named Fred, and is shocked that he never mentioned this despite all the time they spent together. Nyles's response is that it never came up.