Max Barbakow’s Palm Springs is both simple and profound. There are no frills or overly artistic imagery. The plot is straightforward and solidly constructed. On the surface, the film sounds about as intriguing as any other run-of-the-mill comedy. However, it is a perfect example of an effective story with a deep question. What would it be like to live a single day forever? With Palm Springs, Barbakow has crafted a simple, charming comedy that takes a deep dive into profound subject matter.
Palm Springs is not a flashy film in its technique. It does not contain any complex cinematography or special effects. Many of the shots are executed in very traditional ways with standard framing choices. Every shot is meant to draw you in closer to Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti). In that sense, Palm Springs feels like an independent film. The audience is constantly “in the room” with the two main characters. As a result, the film avoids any unnecessary distractions from the main plot.
One technical aspect of the film that does stand out is the vibrant color palette. The colors pop with the backdrop of the desert landscape which gives a bright, pristine look. It all contrasts with some of the darker comedic moments. Those elements also emphasizes the idea of the mundane. Waking up in the same moment every day, regardless of the beautiful setting, can be a miserable.
Addressing the Profound
The most interesting element of the film is its surprisingly deep subject. What would it be like to experience the same day forever? That element of the film is what elevates it past a simple romantic comedy. The scenes that address the main question also vary in terms of tone. There are legitimately funny moments between Sarah and Nyles. As the film progresses, those moments start to wane. The characters transition from contentment, to desperation, to depression.
By the end, Palm Springs effectively conveys the point that life without natural change is simply meaningless. Ultimately, the ugly side of the fantastical dream of eternal life is exposed. It causes us to reconsider what brings us true happiness.