A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Palm Springs is a cross between Groundhog Day and Bridesmaids, a time warp story about people looking for purpose and love who won't turn down alcohol or meaningless sex if those happen to come along in the process. Sexual situations, language, and references are rife, but there's no nudity. Characters live in a consequence-free world, which leads to excessive drug and alcohol use that has no ill effects. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "antichrist," "d--k," "bitch," "penis," "butthole," "balls, "jizz," and "condom." Although plentiful, the violence is mostly comic and bloodless. A woman walks in front of a speeding truck to end a day she doesn't like, then wakes up again to the same day. Brief flashbacks reveal a man has been subjected to torture by an angry madman. A man is tased by a police officer. He bleeds from his eye.
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What's the story?
Nyles (Andy Samberg of SNL) has been waking up every morning stuck in a time loop for a long time, years, maybe decades, maybe eons. On the day he's doomed to relive endlessly, he and his girlfriend head to a wedding in the title's PALM SPRINGS, where, from bitter and repetitive history, he now knows everyone. Unlike the main character in the similar movie Groundhog Day, he seems able to make some major variations in the day. But whether he embarrasses himself, insults people, gets tortured, is mortally wounded by arrows, or even kills himself, he will wake up again in his bed doomed to relive this same day. The days themselves feel like excerpts from Bridesmaids and The Hangover, as Nyles stays pretty drunk, stops caring if his girlfriend cheats on him, has sex indiscriminately with women and men, does crystal meth, and generally causes mayhem without lasting consequence to anyone. That is until he drags the bride's slacker alcoholic sister Sarah (Cristin Milioti of How I Met Your Mother) into the random desert cave from which the space-time loop curse comes. As feelings develop between the two, Nyles wants to stay in the loop with Sarah forever, but Sarah becomes desperate to find the exit back into linear time. How will they make this work?
Is it any good?
Much about this movie is engaging, especially performances by Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. Off to a galloping start, Palm Springs slows down, exposing the screenwriter's failure to think through the premise. Without internally consistent alternate universe rules (well established in the far better films Groundhog Day, Being John Malkovich, and Men in Black), the audience flounders, distracted from the movie's odd philosophical point, that life does have meaning. Why does Nyles perform daredevil acts knowing the instant he dies he will wake up again to live the day over, then suddenly worry about being stopped by armed police? Nyles recklessly mocks people, disregards consequences then, for no apparent reason, lectures Sarah that hurting other people matters. Why? A violent man darkly denounces marriage as "a bottomless pit of sorrow," then sunnily boasts how wonderful his exact same married life is. Having escaped from the loop, a man remembers one person, but doesn't recognize another he knows well. What is the rule, you remember everyone, or you forget everyone?
Each inconsistency further fractures our confidence in this fictional world, leaving us wondering does gravity always make you fall down, or can you fall up? If we can't rely on the movie's own rules to help us anticipate dramatic twists, it's impossible to stay invested in the movie's premise, that love will find a way. Still, this is an imaginative and interesting romcom that's ultimately saved by lovable actors.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Palm Springs is trying to say. What scenes in the movie support these themes?
The comedy relies heavily on not fearing violence because death only results in resetting the day to start over. How do you think people would behave if they didn't fear injury and death?
What about this thought experiment works and what doesn't? The characters complain about their plight, but one of them is so used to it that he doesn't want to try to live a different way. What does this say about human nature?
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