The only movie that matters right now is the romantic comedy “Palm Springs.” It’s a Groundhog Day-esque time loop movie set in the modern day and is an exploration of modern relationships and the crippling mundane life cycle that clutches so many young people. It’s also a Hulu exclusive, so if you haven’t heard of it yet, that may be the reason why.
Romantic comedies are a pretty big hit-or-miss genre, with most either being replaceable nonsense or quirky but thought-provoking dramadies. The in-between barely registers with most audiences because there aren’t many films that fall into that category. “Palm Springs” fits into the latter.
The two main characters, and subjects of the central romance, are kind of irresponsible folks for their own reasons, though drugs and alcohol do contribute. Besides the substances, however, is a fear of conforming and a reckless attraction to standing out.
This is a pretty honest perception to have of young people, both positively and negatively. Many people in their mid-20s to early-30s, from what I’ve observed, do indeed resist being placed in a box. There’s an extreme lean against settling down with a single romantic partner or job among twenty-somethings these days. It’s part teenaged angst runoff, part trying to figure everything out.
I find this ambitious attitude to be both admirable and insufferable. On one hand, why would you not be dreaming big and beyond your hometown and current lifestyle? There’s such a massive, beautiful world out there that is more accessible to exploration now than it ever has been before. Letting those opportunities slip by because you have your entire life “together” at 22 is depressing.
On the other hand, some people think they’re ambitious but end up just conforming to everything anyway. “Oh, look at my big dreams! I have all the answers!” And then you’ll see that person hanging out with the same high school and college friends constantly and knowing the name of the bartenders at that one hole-in-the-wall bar in your town of 2,000. Ambition without any tangible results is nothing. And, of course, if you’re hesitant to leave a certain geographic or philosophical spot, that’s fine … unless you start lecturing people about life outside of a specific geographic or philosophical bubble. Then you might just be a pretentious weirdo without any meaningful perspective on the matter.
All this to say, the characters of “Palm Springs” kind of strike me like the insufferable crowd who think themselves rebels but are really just lonely folks who shield their pain under the guise of not caring about anything. The remedy to that, the movie seems to say, is companionship.
I like that cure to stupid nihilism quite a lot in this case because it suits the characters well. Longing, as it has recently been pointed out to me, is the driving force behind all fiction. As it goes, longing is also the kick needed for many real human moments. When the two main characters in “Palm Springs” recognize their longing, they relieve themselves of more sadness by [spoilers].
It’s powerful when a movie ends on the protagonists finding some purpose, even if that purpose seems a bit antithetical to the messaging of the film’s premise. Getting caught in the mundane loop of life is rarely what someone wants for their life, but having an ally there with you throughout might soften the blow and make the time enjoyable.
Sam Zavada is a copy editor with The Standard-Speaker in Hazleton. He previously served as the news clerk at The Standard-Speaker, working with the obituaries and the community and lifestyle pages. Sam’s work in print dates back to his time at King’s College, where he spent two years as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, The Crown. Earlier in his time with The Crown, he worked as a staff writer and the entertainment manager. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.