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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Palm Springs’ – a romantic time-loop movie starring Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti

Movie poster of "Palm Springs"

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

“Palm Springs” may be the perfect pandemic romance.

An initial at-a-glance plot summary is admittedly off-putting, especially for those of us who think “Groundhog Day” may be one of the greatest films ever made.

See, like Bill Murray, Andy Samberg is caught in a time loop, forced to relive the same day…well… day after day after day.

Movie poster of “Palm Springs”

Samberg has two advantages. His day doesn’t start with Sonny and Cher on the radio. And instead of chilly Pawxitony, Pa. in February, he’s at a wedding in sunny Palm Springs (his cheating girlfriend is a bridesmaid).

Still, stuck is stuck, and while we never learn just how long he’s been caught in this endless repetition, we do sense he’s pretty sick of it. Granted, some days are better than others, but then, so are some days trapped in a pandemic quarantine.

However, just when you’re ready to send the filmmakers into their own permanent spin cycle, something interesting happens that changes the stakes. Samberg starts a flirtation with the bride’s smart, cynical sister, Cristin Milioti. One thing leads to another and suddenly she’s stuck in the time loop, too.

Turns out a shared surreality has its possibilities – and they’re not a repeat of the ones offered up in “Groundhog Day.” Sometimes, the two try to figure a way out of their weird purgatory. Other days, they just have a good time – razzing the oh-too-familiar wedding guests or breaking into a wild dance in crazy twin outfits.

Adam Samberg and Cristin Milioti in “Palm Springs”

The overall message is sappy and unsurprising, but also awfully effective. Namely, not being alone changes everything. Add J.K. Simmons as a perpetually miffed kind of guardian angel/Wile E. Coyote (also permanently time-looped) and the movie takes on even more resonance.

Being a kinda-yeah, kinda-not Samberg fan can make you more (or less) resistant to the picture.  But whatever it is that people find to like about him is expertly showcased here.

And Milioti is a wonder. She steals the movie from the ostensible star (Samberg) without taking anything from him. It’s the very definition of a co-starring performance, and I’d love to see them together again. Heck, put them in another time loop and have them help out Sherlock Holmes or Indiana Jones. Cast them as Sonny and Cher.

Just let us see them together. They show us why, sometimes, it really is great to wake up and have nothing else to do but share a whole day to with somebody. A special somebody.

“Palm Springs” is a Hulu original, and it is available exclusively on Hulu

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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