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  • Writer's picturePigeon Montes

Palm Springs: Groundhog Day For A New Philosophical Generation

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

As a connoisseur or film savant (or if you prefer to use layman’s terms - nerd is fine) the gravitational pull is stronger with Groundhog Day. But that may be because it was one of the more obtuse films that deals with time and space science. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot to learn from So-Crates and Bill and Ted, but Phil Connors hits differently. Palm Springs, however, carries along with it similar plot threads, but manages to bring about more of a connections to today's younger audience... i.e. character age and setting have simple connectivity, I mean we've all been to a destination right? Anyway there is digression.

Palm Springs chronicles a story - simplistic but with depth deeper than a hand can go down the trash disposal when retrieving a wedding ring. It doesn’t elaborate or express itself in a way that a man of Woody Allen’s philosophical prowess would in dialogue, but uses emotional cues and facial expressions to tell the bigger story.

And for those who may not have seen Groundhog Day... better put that on the list! C’mon now. But in all seriousness, it is about a cynical and well known weatherman who gets stuck reliving the same day, eventually turning that into an advantage. He learns new skills and a deeper understanding of his being.

The similarities are far and between elements of the plot line and characterizations (cynicism), but a unique addition is the use of the concept of the other in Palm Springs. Sarah or the other, while not replicating many similarities in basic form, she is still the objective and intersubjective looker. She understands the reality and the means to want to escape, but the trickling and bumpy rollercoaster ride of an emotional arc distinguishes the two sides of the same coin. Something that Nyles can’t seem to be fully coherent on, due to the weight of cynicism, angst, and despair looming over in different ways.

At times it bends conceptions, the characters retain realistic consistency like Nyle’s cynicism and carelessness makes the prototypical film character seem genuine to it. It allows a view into the known that is unknown to the character at that moment. Though not much backstory is needed, you could sense by the interactions around how the perception truly is.

In Groundhog Day, Phil Connors evolves with more subtlety and Nyles follows a similar path, albeit being a douche-bro. And maybe the difference in approach, Connors is a doer, Nyles is a procrastinator. It’s all about the quirks and mannerisms as opposed to Connors constant talking and complaining about nothingness. He was always that guy to always find something to complain about. Though his local weatherman celebrity status seems to have the feeling of taking a nosedive because he has to cover groundhog day in his hometown.

Both films relate to our understanding of the miniature society that is the people of the location. The faux paw of every person at Tala’s wedding in Palm Springs to the annoying people from school who never left the hometown kind of ordeal… it’s keeps returning with antics and reactions that carry a lot of anticipation.

As I sat back trying to gather all these bits and pieces together on the oddity of it all, there were a few things that came to mind, but primarily was that of the absurd. An existential crisis can happen minimally or enough to create a broken brain and a fractured reality. In the absurdist view the concepts of time and reality don’t exist, despite the copious amounts of suicides. One simply can’t eliminate thyself and have all your problems dissipate.

It’s comedic bits and moments reflect existential / philosophical themes with ease. Whether it is Phil’s problem with facticity or Nyles foray into understanding the authenticity of his being, the characters discover more to themselves through absurdist-like situations. It’s like that moment when Nyles and Sarah did that 80s dance at the bar or when Phil kidnaps the groundhog and goes on a joy ride.

Warning Spoilers in of Comedic Moments in Film!

It’s at points irreverent and focused, but the layers that overlap each other offer distinguishable cohesiveness. It’s like if Jordan Peele made the symbolism in Us more direct and less ambiguous. It’s all these aspects and more that bring about one of the greatest comedies and character studies in modern cinema (Groundhog Day), and a new poignant one (Palm Springs).

If you have the time and seek out these marvelous films that even at face value can be enjoyed as fun entertaining films comedies. I highly recommend seeking out both, especially if you enjoy studying aspects of philosophy / existentialism.



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