Andy Samberg as Nyles, aka “Misty’s boyfriend”, time-looped slacker focused only on “the next bite”
Palm Springs, California, November 2019
Film: Palm Springs
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Director: Max Barbakow
Costume Designer: Colin Wilkes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This is today, today is yesterday, and tomorrow is also today… it’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might’ve heard about.
Shorthand descriptions of Palm Springs have summed up the movie as “Groundhog Day for millennials,” though I was pleasantly surprised by the poignancy and philosophical complexity of this incredibly entertaining movie… particularly in the context of the much-publicized fact that the Lonely Island tacked on a nice 69 cents to the record-setting $17.5 million sale price to Neon and Hulu after its premiere at Sundance in January 2020.
The action is set two months earlier—November 9, 2019, to be exact—when we meet the listless and laidback Nyles (Andy Samberg) on the day of a friend’s wedding in Palm Springs. Unlike Groundhog Dog, we’re already well in the middle of Nyles’ time-looping life and our hero is all too aware of it, having determined that nothing matters until he accidentally brings self-destructive bridesmaid Sarah (Cristin Milioti) into the time loop, a major point of divergence from its spiritual predecessor as Bill Murray had never pulled Andie MacDowell into his repetitive days.
“Groundhog Day is rightfully regarded as the foundation, but new life has been breathed into this narrative scenario with recent stories dealing with grief, trauma, and love,” wrote Emma Fraser for SyFy Wire, recalling similarly themed releases from across the last year including Natasha Lyonne’s excellently existential Russian Doll on Netflix.
Many, including The Verge‘s Joshua Rivera, have been quick to point out the eerie relevance of Palm Springs‘ release in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, a time of seemingly redundant days under lockdown with no realistic end in sight. Not surprisingly, Palm Springs quickly broke Hulu’s streaming records during its opening weekend in mid-July 2020.
“We’re all tired,” wrote Rivera. “Every day runs together, an endless tangle of hours and screens and occasional bursts of daylight to recharge. Old routines take on new wrinkles: meetings via webcam, masks to maintain and wear before outings, communal activities retrofitted to be done in isolation. Maybe we’re not in a literal time loop, but it sure feels like one; a long, endless stretch of days where little changes and we’re burned out all the time. Enter Palm Springs, a movie for 2020’s burnout state of mind.”
Even without a world struggling to pull itself together from the rubble of life under COVID-19, Palm Springs would have been particularly resonant for the increasing ennui I’ve observed expressed by my peers (I’m 31, for the record), a “unique generational malaise” as Rivera calls it that has been reinforced by frequent studies of modern depression and anxiety as reported by The Atlantic (here and here), Business Insider, Psychology Today, and Vogue, among scores of other sources. Of course, every generation has had its struggles, but there seems to be a unique knack for millennials to publicly—and often performatively—come to terms with their mental health issues, resulting in a collective de-stigmatization if not overall celebration. (Again, to provide empirical evidence, I have a frequently worn T-shirt that announces “I’m Depressed” in the Seinfeld font.)
“Palm Springs was conceived and filmed in a pre-pandemic world, but the allure of nihilism was already strong in an existence where many of the pretenses of equity or civic duty had been dispensed,” contextualizes Rivera. “The pull to withdraw and go numb was already strong; now it’s overwhelming. The cost of sticking your neck out is high, and the rewards are slim. What point is there in pushing forward and finding the way to break a cycle bigger than us? Or, more importantly, examining the ways we’ve helped hasten the rot? … What elevates Palm Springs from clever dark comedy to poignant story is in the clarity of its moral vision, the belief that it’s worth it to hold on to some kind of decency even if literally nothing in the world matters.”
Without knowing what writer Andy Siara had in mind when penning his debut screenplay, the finished product (also Max Barbakow’s directorial debut) struck me as a surprisingly profound allegory for mental health struggles. Consider the exposition: our protagonist is already locked into an undesirable and overwhelming desperate situation beyond his control, living an existence that he has accepted as ultimately meaningless:
I don’t know what it is; it could be life, it could be death, might be a dream, I might be imagining you, you might be imagining me, it could be purgatory or a glitch in the simulation that we’re both in, I don’t know, so… I decided a while ago to sort of give up and stop trying to make sense of things altogether because the only way to really live in this is to embrace the fact that nothing matters.
Those suffering from depression can likely relate to this type of surrender, and much of the messaging from Nyles, Sarah, and Roy (J.K. Simmons) while stuck in the loop overlaps with depressive emotions: “nothing matters,” “the pain is real”, and “I’m getting out of this thing”, in addition to the faintly hopeful “I should hope it isn’t all meaningless” and Roy’s simple point that could be the movie’s entire thesis: “nothin’ worse than goin’ through this shit alone.” Of course, all apply on the surface to the conditions of the time loop, though audiences with mental health issues can recognize the coded language, feelings, and moments like Roy’s daughter commenting that Nyles “looks sad,” only for this astute observation to be quickly dismissed: “Oh, he’s okay.”
Like many depressives, Nyles is quick to attempt self-destruction as a way out of his undesirable predicament, though Palm Springs neatly and healthily addresses the futility of suicide as it merely reverts Nyles back to where he was without solving any problems… a conclusion that he could have learned from Bill Murray’s Phil Conners. Once she has realized this as well, Sarah is quicker to take a gamble on a more calculated solution, and her well-researched plan reminded me of therapy; there’s no guarantee that it will “work”, but it’s worth putting in the effort to try to work your way out of this desperate hole.
Sarah’s assertive drive to leave reveals Nyles’ realization of his own co-dependency issues, as he’s become dependent on her companionship, Roy’s increasingly brutal assassination attempts, and the ironic comfort of the repetitive time loop itself that has become his own sweet hereafter. To some viewers, this could be frustration: shouldn’t Nyles leap at any opportunity to save himself from this? Unfortunately, some depressives like yours truly may recognize the Stockholm syndrome-like grip that the time loop has on Nyles; he’s grown complacent—if not comfortable and content—living with that which causes him to suffer.
Sarah: Holy shit. Are you scared to leave?
Nyles: What? No, not at all! I just don’t want to leave; there’s a difference.
Of course, Nyles wants to leave in theory, but he’s mentally and emotionally trapped by his endless days where there’s little to rely on other than knowing part of him doesn’t want to be in this predicament anymore. (Though one could make an argument for not wanting to leave a life free of responsibility and full of burritos and beer.)
Much as Nyles promises a life “less mundane” for Sarah, the movie’s colorful cinematography and excellent music keep it to a quick and efficient 90 minutes rather than the seven-odd years Nyles spends reliving it (as calculated by Marshall Shaffer for Decider.) One standout track that I’ve added to my summer playlist has been “Ulu Palakua” from Iwalani Kahalewai’s 1972 album An Hawaiian Happening, the ideal aloha anthem to get us talking about Nyles’ tropical garb.
What’d He Wear?
“Why is he dressed for a luau?” we overhear a wedding guest ask as Nyles takes the microphone. As we learn, Nyles had once put forth the sartorial effort for his role as a wedding guest in full suit and tie, though imprisonment in his time warp has shifted our protagonist’s priorities so that dressing appropriately for an acquaintance’s wedding has ended up reasonably low on the list. In turn, he’s styled himself as the ultimate man of leisure, clad in aloha shirt, swim trunks, sneakers, and ubiquitous wooden-framed sunglasses… consistent with his self-described mission to “try to live my life at this point with as little effort as possible.”
I’ve discussed ad nauseam my delight that the late 2010s are seeing a resurgence of the aloha shirt with many brands offering tropical-printed tops for men. While many aloha shirts I’ve explored were worn in seminal aloha shirt productions like Blue Hawaii, From Here to Eternity, and Magnum, P.I., this costume from Palm Springs may be one of the first prominent examples discussed from the current aloha revival.
Informed by the screenplay’s direction that Nyles spent much of his days in a Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks, costume designer Colin Wilkes explained to Charles Thorp at Men’s Journal that her homework started with “looking at a lot of old Martin Parr photography and just general images of ‘cool dads’ for reference.”
“We really wanted to make something iconic—that wouldn’t be dated quickly—but still felt natural and real and would work really well in contrasting him against this arid, desolate landscape,” Wilkes further shared with Fawnia Soo Hoo for Fashionista, elaborating that more than 80 shirt options were considered before she landed on the Polo Ralph Lauren shirt that Andy Samberg would end up wearing in the movie. As the bright red shirt was from Ralph Lauren’s 2018 collection, Wilkes was able to purchase 15 multiples of the same shirt, though this was eventually limited to the six with the least deviations in print for the sake of continuity.
Yang-Yi Goh had kicked off a breakdown for GQ of “18 effortless, eccentric button-ups to live in” last year with this shirt at the top of the list. Constructed of lightweight viscose, the bright red shirt is covered with a retro-inspired all-over print in white, yellow, mint green, and black, detailed with tropical scenes like palm trees, pineapples, surfer girls, volcanoes, and the occasional “Aloha” stenciling.
The short-sleeved shirt has a brief vent on each sleeve, and the flat camp collar has a loop to ostensibly close the shirt at the neck via smaller button under the right collar leaf, a carry-over from classic mid-century sport shirts. In addition to the matching breast pocket, the shirt has a matching lower pocket on each hip, no doubt an asset to a guy like Nyles who is always looking for easy ways to lug around more cans of his favorite beer.
“I had mustard yellow in my head as soon as I read about the swim trunks in the script,” Wilkes told Men’s Journal, and she followed through on this vision by dressing Nyles in a pair of yellow trunks from ASOS Design made of 100% recycled polyester. Now unavailable (as of July 2020), these ASOS trunks had last been an affordable $13.50 when in stock on the brand’s website.
The solid shorts were a smart choice as this single color provides a relatively grounding balance while its vibrancy harmonizes with the shirt (and echoes the yellow in its print), keeping Nyles’ outfit appropriately flashy without being clashy. The mid-length shorts appear to have a 7″ inseam, ending just above the knee, and are tightened at the waist via black drawstring. They have side pockets and a squared patch pocket on the back left side where, of course, Nyles tends to keep an extra beer.
Nyles’ dirty Adidas sneakers are most likely the Adidas Continental 80 in the white, yellow, and black colorway (G28995) with smooth white leather uppers detailed with yellow and black webbed stripes along the side, yellow outsoles, and yellow soft French terry lining, neatly tying into those yellow shorts and the yellow throughout his shirt.
“You wear underwear… under your bathing suit?” asks a bewildered Sarah the first time they hook up. “Yeah, doesn’t everybody?” responds Nyles.
While the spotted shorts may seem played for laughs, particularly in the context of coitus interruptus and Roy’s well-aimed arrow, Wilkes explained to Fashionista that the pink concentric circles on his pale blue cotton boxer shorts (“vegan donuts,” according to Wilkes) were intentionally chosen to coordinate with the embossed polka dots on Sarah’s J. Crew bralette to communicate “the idea of planting circles of infinity and the metaphor of that.”
Nyles’ woody sunglasses are another essential item for what Wilkes described as “the quintessential man of leisure,” though prop master Marcy SIlver explained to Men’s Journal that these were originally going to be yellow. After more than three dozen pairs cycled through the mix, she landed on the “surprise hit” of these faux-wooden framed sunglasses with a browline shape like the classic Ray-Ban Clubmaster, though the double hinge pins as opposed to Ray-Ban’s traditional oblong endpieces suggest a different manufacturer.
If you’re looking to crib Nyles’ wood browline shades, shoppers across a range of budgets can pick up a pair from Amazon, starting at the semi-rimless ABLIBI sunglasses up to the Ray-Ban RB3016 “Clubmaster Wood”.
Alternately, if Nyles is looking to change up his look, he occasionally grabs a light blue denim baseball cap from a fellow pool player at the dive bar he frequents with Sarah. The look is fitting for Wilkes’ “cool dads” reference point, as many an American millennial could likely find one of these somewhere in the back of Dad’s closet; in fact, The Hat Depot even includes “Dad Hat” in the marketed description of its current issue of plain blue washed denim baseball caps.
While Palm Springs has seen record highs of 102°F in November, the average low is closer to 50°F at night so camping out with Sarah and the famous Cabazon Dinosaurs means Nyles occasionally needs something heavier than an aloha shirt and shorts, to which he turns again to Ralph Lauren, specifically a red quilted “puffer” down jacket with a gray-lined hood and a zip-up front reinforced by a button-up fly.
For their coordinated dance to Patrick Crowley’s energetic “Megatron Man”, Nyles and Sarah take over the dive in coordinated blue denim trucker jackets over white tank tops with red paisley cotton bandanas tied around their necks.
Earlier scenes depict Nyles at Tala and Abe’s wedding in more traditional wedding guest garb: black suit, white shirt, and black tie. The uninspired garb is about as far as one could get from the carefree finery he later adopts.
Each morning, Nyles arises wearing the same blue melange short-sleeved T-shirt with white contrast top-stitching on the shoulder seams. When he throws the covers off, he reveals the same boxer shorts that he famously wears under his swim trunks.
While there’s little interesting about a plain blue T-shirt, Palm Springs fans seeking a comfortable top can wink at one of the film’s in-universe products with these T-shirts and bandanas touting the fictional “Orchid Explosion by Fournier” hair mist.
What to Imbibe
Nyles cracks countless cans of Akupara beer, a fictional brand designed by prop master Marcy Silver’s team specifically for Palm Springs as it would likely be next to impossible to get a real brand in Nyles’ and Sarah’s hands for all the driving, swimming, and flying (and subsequently crashing) a commandeered plane.
In an Instagram post from January, Silver shared that nearly 1,000 Akupara cans were made, a colossal amount of work and certainly worthwhile as Nyles tends to go through several six packs per day in the time loop… not to mention the many that Sarah pelts at him in the pool, sending him diving underwater as the cans charge at him through the pool like a slacker’s take on the beginning of Saving Private Ryan.
The only other beer clearly seen on screen is the equally fictional Durstin Pale Ale that Roy serves him during Nyles’ white flag-raising visit to Irvine, where they each raise a bottle to toast to Mai Tais.
“Brewed in Boston, MA,” according to the label, the Durstin must be an in-joke to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, where the exact same label appeared on molotov cocktails within the game… making it all the more entertaining that Roy is offering one to his former sworn enemy.
“Here are you the drinks you didn’t pick up from the bar,” the bartender deadpans as she drops off two gray-looking cocktails—each garnished with a grapefruit slice and pine.
“Yeah, I always get an extra one,” Nyles explains, “save myself a trip…”
“Or you might just be an alcoholic,” Sarah counters.
Later, Nyles also mixes himself a morning Margarita as Sarah’s parents debate her whereabouts… though this becomes just straight tequila after Sarah stops seeing him and takes her loops in a different direction.
How to Get the Look
What would you wear if you had to dress in the same clothing every day until the end of time? Given his general attitude and the warm Palm Springs climate, you can’t fault Nyles for choosing an outfit that embraces a life of leisure and distracts from his new lifetime of ennui.
- Red tropical-printed viscose Ralph Lauren short-sleeved aloha shirt with camp collar, plain front, matching breast pocket, and hip pockets
- Mustard yellow polyester ASOS Design mid-length swim trunks with black drawstring, side pockets, and back-right pocket (with black-grommeted vent)
- Pale blue (with pink concentric circle print) cotton boxer shorts
- Brown faux-wood framed browline sunglasses
- White leather Adidas Continental 80 sneakers with yellow and black side striping (and yellow terry lining)
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, exclusively streaming on Hulu.
I also recommend reading these great articles about Colin Wilkes’ costume design for Palm Springs:
- Fashionista: “In ‘Palm Springs,’ Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti Repeat the Same Day Over and Over Again in Ralph Lauren, ASOS and & Other Stories” by Fawnia Soo Hoo (7/10/2020)
- Men’s Journal: “How to Get Andy Samberg’s ‘Palm Springs’ Style” by Charles Thorp (7/15/2020)
- SyFy Wire: “Look of the Week: Palm Springs‘ Playful Costume Repeats” by Emma Fraser (7/24/2020)
We kind of have no choice but to live, so I think your best bet is just to learn how to suffer existence.