Why ‘Palm Springs’ Is Such A Good Movie About Depression

Plus: ‘The Good Lord Bird,’ Eddie Van Halen and more

by Linda Holmes
Welcome! It was the week when the next Pixar movie went to streaming. It was the week when Emily In Paris got on the wrong side of Chicago pizza. And it was the week when Taylor Swift continued on her political journey. Let’s get to it.


Opening Argument: Why Palm Springs Is Such A Good Movie About Depression

I was talking to someone this week about the summer comedy Palm Springs, in which Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti play two people who meet at a wedding and develop a very complicated relationship that takes a lot of very unexpected turns. One of the things that surprised me the most about it, that I think is worth mentioning as our current circumstances stretch out toward winter, is that I found it to be a sharply incisive film about depression. 

Now, to tell you why I think it’s a great film about depression, I have to spoil its basic premise, and if you haven’t watched it and don’t know what it’s about, I strongly recommend you go and watch it, and then come back. But for those of you who have seen it, I’m going to talk about it. Okay. Are we ready? 

As it turns out, Nyles (Samberg) has been repeating the same day over and over for a very long time. He is, Groundhog Day-style, living this wedding again and again, and on this one particular run through the day, after he meets Sarah (Milioti), she gets sucked into the loop with him for the first time. So she, too, is now living this day again and again with him, even though for countless rounds in the past, she’s just been a regular person at the wedding who had no idea what was happening to Nyles. 

Samberg is really good in this movie, I think, in a tricky way. He’s such a high-energy guy whose comedy tends to be so big and outwardly directed that what you get here is a little bit surprising. Because what you get is a guy who’s really tired. He’s tired of trying to have a good time, he’s tired of hearing the same speeches and the same music and eating the same food and floating in the same pool, day after day. And he’s terribly isolated in a very specific way, which is that nobody else knows how pointless everything is for him. Nobody can possibly understand what he’s going through, nobody else can possibly really get this existential misery, and he doesn’t even resent them for it. He understands that they’re all having fun. He’s just resigned to never being able to be part of it. 

And when he meets Sarah, there’s suddenly another person in there with him. And at first, he tries to just tell her to give up — just coast, like he is, and realize that she’s never getting out of this miserable forever she’s now stuck in. She panics, she resists, she tries to fight it. But then she decides to be part of it with him, and he’s less lonely, simply because now there are two of them. Nevertheless … that’s not getting them out of the loop. And she wants out. And what she presents is the possibility of things improving. 

This is my experience, really, of moderate-level depression. It’s that feeling that … kind of nothing feels important or worth doing, even if moment-to-moment, you’re not despairing. You can’t lock into the fun other people are having. You wonder at their ability to be so happy. And while it’s not at all the case that meeting the right person cures depression (please do not believe any movie or television show that tells you this), it is true that sometimes, another person can help you see the possibility of things improving. Sarah doesn’t really fix what’s wrong so much as she convinces him that he should try to fix what’s wrong.

I just find it a really powerful, really insightful movie about something that’s hard to get right. It’s still funny — it’s still a real comedy! But there’s this airlessness to the Samberg performance that felt so eerily familiar to me the first time I watched it. This is going to go on forever and be a drag the entire time, he seemed to be saying. Just accept it; this is life now. And so it becomes really touching, all the goofing around and the pranks and the silliness that become part of his life once he actually makes a friend. A friend who eventually says: This is not life forever. 

I’ve gone back to it in my head a lot this summer. Pushing against that feeling of “I give up, maybe I’m just going to be blah for all time.” It’s worth pushing against, I think. 

It’s going to be a long winter. Steady on, and don’t wander into any mysterious caves. 

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Ethan Hawke in The Good Lord Bird
Ethan Hawke in The Good Lord Bird/Showtime

We Recommend

The time has come to hear the first two episodes of the NPR Music podcast Louder Than A Riot, which comes from Sidney Madden and Rodney Carmichael, both of whom we’ve been lucky enough to feature on PCHH a few times. Get it in your ears. 

It’s a good time to catch up with the Showtime miniseries The Good Lord Bird, starring Ethan Hawke as John Brown. It’s interesting and surprising in its tone, and we’ll be talking about it next week. 

I have a limited tolerance for celebrities being disruptive and finding themselves adorable, but it’s hard not to be amused by the Timothy Olyphant clip from Late Night With Seth Meyers that showed up this week. Just … it’s very chaotic, I’ll just say that. 

If you are a person who enjoys Aaron Sorkin, please enjoy this eerily accurate imitation of Aaron Sorkin writing some West Wing dialogue about our current situation. 


What We Did This Week

Eddie Van Halen
Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images
I reviewed Emily In Paris, which is fine if you like that kind of thing! 

Glen reviewed the new show NeXt, in which John Slattery plays a tech dude. 

Glen also reviewed Netflix’s The Haunting Of Bly Manor, the follow-up to the successful adaptation of The Haunting Of Hill House.

Stephen wrote a lovely remembrance of Eddie Van Halen, and went on air to talk about him too.

I appeared on a virtual panel for the ATX Television Festival with my old pals Sarah D. Bunting and Tara Ariano, where we talked all about their new book, A Very Special 90210 Book. 

On our Wednesday show, Stephen was joined by our friends Felix Contreras and Stefanie Fernández to discuss ten years of Alt.Latino and ten years in Latinx music. 

And on our Friday show, Aisha and I talked about the terrific The Forty-Year-Old Version with Daisy Rosario and Kiana Fitzgerald. 

What’s Making Us Happy (And Other Show Notes)

Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are:
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