Palm Springs Film Review – Time Loops And Tree Loops: How Palm Springs Imitates The Lifecycle Of The Lodgepole Pine Tree
Palm Springs immediately differentiates itself from other time loop movies by starting with Nyles (Andy Samberg), one of our two protagonists, as he has already presumably lived years, if not decades inside of a day loop. He expertly dances his way through a wedding dance floor to our other protagonist, Sarah (Cristin Milioti).
Saved from having to provide a wedding toast earlier by Nyles, Sarah is intrigued and they go off together to first watch Nyles date cheating on him before making out on some rocks in the desert outside of the Palm Springs resort they are staying at. The two have an easy rapport with one another and seem like a cute pair.
Then, like Cupid’s arrow, a real arrow enters the scene and into Nyles’ back. Sarah is scared, while Nyles is more annoyed as he crawls his way to a glowing cave while yelling at Sarah not to follow. She does and wakes up in the same bed she did that morning, now stuck in the same time loop as Nyles.
The two of them proceed to do everything that one would if stuck in an infinite time loop with someone else, they drink, create elaborate dances, take hallucinogens, and eventually, sleep with one another. The story becomes a bit more complicated as their relationship is tested with a series of reveals. It is also the point when the viewer may start to realize that this story mirrors that of the lodgepole pine tree.
Lodgepole pines are native to the Western United States, growing in areas that are prone to forest fires. The tree’s seeds are sealed tightly inside of a cone that will not break or open from a fall like other seeds. They are sealed so tight that they need an outside environmental trigger to open, in their case that outside trigger is fire.
The cave that the two (well, three if you count JK Simmons (and four if you count the goat (five if you count June Squibb))) enter is like the lodgepole pine seed. Instead of a fire, It takes an earthquake to open it up. Once open, like the seed, it grants life anew as the characters are able to repeat their days. However, repeating only a single day isn’t exactly as nice as it may appear. Nyles and Sarah are never able to move forward in their lives, always ending back up in places they don’t want to be at the beginning of every morning (this is especially true for Sarah).
That predicament is similar to the lodgepole pines’ fate in recent years. It used to be that fires were relatively rare. The trees would have enough time to fully grow and mature after a fire burnt them down and opened the seeds to new life like a phoenix from the flames. Now with global warming and rising temperatures, fires are more common than ever. Lodgepole pines are now burnt without getting to fully mature, similar to how the Nyles and Sarah aren’t able to mature when only repeating the same day over and over again.
To get out of the loop in the film, just like what we need to do to get out of the destructive global warming downward spiral, Sarah takes matters into her own hands by using the loop to her advantage and learning everything she possibly can about it. Like everyone should in real life, she uses science and reasoning to come up with a solution to the problem. Where most people in today’s society seem to be following Nyles nihilism (nylehilism?) and viewpoint earlier in the film that the only way to get through it is to realize that life is meaningless, we should be taking a page out of Sarah’s research books instead and try to work forward for a solution that can benefit not only us but the entire world by allowing us to move past our repeating mistakes and move forward as a people.