Palm Springs

Palm Springs


With schools across the country and throughout the DMV announcing that they will remain virtual for several more months, life in quarantine is affirmed as our new normal. When DC and the surrounding area shut down in March, it was hard to imagine that in July we would be bracing for distance learning and stay at home directives extending into 2021 for those fortunate enough to work from home.

Many of my therapy clients describe a sensation of quarantine fatigue. An awareness of repetition and a longing for social connection are the most noticeable markers of this fatigue. Each day feels remarkably similar to the one before. With so many of life’s animating punctuations cancelled or postponed indefinitely, there is a rinse-wash-repeat narrative to the routine of quarantine that can feel isolating, frustrating and surreal.

The prescient release of the film Palm Springs acts as an unlikely mirror reflecting the monotony of our extended quarantine. Viewers will enjoy the movie much more if they avoid the significant spoilers revealed in the trailer. I am relieved that I was able to experience this delightful film without any knowledge of the plot, so there is no link included in this post. For those who crave a bit of a spoiler, consider dialing it down a notch and instead check out this hilarious clip from the Anatomy of a Scene. The clip includes some spoilers, but does not poison the pleasure of watching the surprising plot twists as they unfold.

The film takes place on the day of a wedding in Palm Springs. Nyles (Andy Samberg) is a plus one guest of one of the bridesmaids and Sarah (Cristen Milioti) is the wayward, heavy drinking maid of honor and big sister of the bride. The plot repeats the day of the wedding again and again in a manner that echoes particular elements of the human experience panning out during this deeply challenging time. Subtle distinctions like whether the bride has all of her teeth create minor variations in the experience of the day. But, for the most part, each day is exactly the same as the one before.

Palm Springs is a romantic comedy and it is not about a pandemic, so the substance of the story has nothing to do with the current challenges we are facing as a society. But, from a relational perspective, the plot is as interesting as it is entertaining. The setup poses the underlying question of how two people should handle their approach to life if every day is going to be pretty much the same as the day before it. The ability to become one’s kindest, most emotionally mature self is a timely lesson in patience and perseverance. Many of my current therapy clients are discovering ways to adapt to the current challenges. For those of us who are able to work remotely, there’s no place like home, especially if there is a willingness to make the most of it. Sometimes that might involve watching a film like Palm Springs, together with the ones we love.

Elisabeth LaMotte

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