Is Palm Springs a Rom-Com?

Rom-coms are one of the most miscategorized and debated movie genres. People call movies rom-coms all the time, even when they aren’t. Movies like Wedding Crashers and Bridesmaids. That’s why I created The Debatable Rom-Com Movie Index. It’s a way to determine how much of a rom-com a movie is actually a rom-com. This index is based on what I believe makes a movie a rom-com.

This is how the system works. There are 7 categories and a bonus category that are used to guide us to a total score. The score is out of a scale of 100. Whatever the total score is, that’s the percentage that movie is a rom-com. If the movie scores a 70 or above on the rom-com index, it is determined to be a Certified Rom-Com.

Here are the three buckets a movie could fall into based on their score:

  • Certified Rom-Com: 70+
  • Debatable Rom-Com: 40 – 69
  • Not a Rom-Com: 0 – 39

To be clear, this isn’t a movie quality index, so the score in no way reflects how good the movie is. For example, Goodfellas would score quite low on The Debatable Rom-Com Movie Index, but it’s still a great movie overall. This index is purely a score to determine where a movie falls on the rom-com spectrum.

These are the 7 categories and bonus category the index uses, and the points associated with each.

Category 1: How did the couple meet?

The primary couple in the movie should meet for the first time or “remeet” each other after many years of not seeing each other. It’s better if they meet in a cute/unexpected/quirky way, also known as a meet-cute. This is the ideal way to meet in a rom-com.

An example of this would be like in Set it Up, when Zoey Deutch’s character orders food for her boss late at night, but doesn’t have money to pay for the order. As she’s trying to convince the delivery person to still give her the food, Glen Powell’s character is unsuccessfully attempting to order food for his boss. He sees what is happening in the office lobby with Zoey’s character and runs over to pay for the food to give to his boss, but she ends up convincing him to split the meals for each of their bosses.

This is scored out of 20.

Category 2: How much of the main plot was about the romantic relationship?

The main point of the plot has to be about the romantic relationship between the two primary characters. At least one of the characters “needs” to find love. It can be either unexpectedly, or because other people are pressuring them, or through their own desire. One, or both, have to resist the relationship/connection/love initially, before coming to the realization that they belong together. A great example of this would be When Harry Met Sally.

This is scored out of 20.

Category 3: What happened to cause the couple to temporarily separate?

An issue has to occur that drives the two main characters away from each other. The more realistic this is, the better. It’s normally a result of something one of the main characters did that affected the other person.

An example of this would be like in 10 Things I Hate About You when Julia Stiles’s character finds out that Heath Ledger’s character started dating her to get money.

This is scored out of 20.

Category 4: What happened to bring the characters back together?

One, or both, of the characters should perform some sort of grand gesture for the other in order to show their true feelings. Usually it’s done as a way to win the person back after whatever caused them to break up. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but one of the characters has to attempt to bring the two back together. A grand gesture will help the score here though.

An example of this is in Friends with Benefits when Justin Timberlake’s character organizes a flash mob for Mila Kunis’s character, something she had organized earlier in the movie for him to get him to take a job in New York.

This is scored out of 20.

Category 5: Was there a montage?

The movie has to have a montage at some point. It can be to help you better understand a character, or to show the development of the relationship over a period of time, or time passing after they breakup. This isn’t required, but it helps.

An example of this would be at the start of Hitch when Will Smith’s character is showing what he does for a living and essentially explains his philosophy on love, which ends up being the through line for the rest of the movie.

This is scored out of 5.

Category 6: Did the couple end up together at the end?

This also isn’t required, but it’s preferred. No example needed for this one, as I think this one is self-explanatory.

This is scored out of 10.

Category 7: Was there a healthy balance of both romance and comedy?

The movie should have a good mixture of both romance and comedy throughout the movie. It can’t be skewed too far into one of those genres where one clearly dominates the other.

This is scored out of 5.

Bonus Category: Was there a classic quote or line?

This can be harder to determine because enough time needs to pass in order to determine if this became true. However, sometimes there’s a quote or line from a movie that you just know is going to become part of the pop culture lexicon and be repeated over and over. When this happens, it can take the movie to the next level.

An example of this would be “I’ll have what she’s having” from When Harry Met Sally.

This is scored out of 5.


Now that the process has been set up, let’s dive into our first analysis for Palm Springs. From this point forward, there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want anything to be spoiled, stop reading now.

A quick synopsis of Palm Springs, from Google: “Stuck in a time loop, two wedding guests develop a budding romance while living the same day over and over again.”

Category 1: How did the couple meet?

Palm Springs takes place at a wedding. Nyles (played by Andy Samberg) is a guest, dating one of the bridesmaids. At the reception, it comes time for the maid of honor, Sarah (played by Cristin Miliotti) to give a speech. She hesitates and Nyles steps in to give a speech instead, saving Sarah. During the speech, they make eye contact several times. Later in the night, Nyles performs a variety of impromptu dances with other guests as he goes over to talk with Sarah. We are led to believe that this is the first time they meet. We later learn that Nyles has been stuck in an infinite time loop and has actually met her several times prior to the day we see them meet.

Score: 12/20. The meeting we see, the speech save and dance approach, is very cute and fun. However, it loses points because it’s not their actual first meeting and we don’t get to see their first meeting.

Category 2: How much of the main plot was about the romantic relationship?

The plot of Palm Springs is that Nyles inadvertently gets Sarah stuck in an infinite time loop that he has been stuck in for years and the two end up forging a real connection and bond with each other, before finding a way to break the cycle.

Both Nyles and Sarah initially resist the idea of any romantic relationship with each other, before Nyles comes to the realization that he doesn’t want the comfortable lifestyle he’s been living without Sarah there to share it with him. The plot is primarily about the two of them building their relationship with each other and learning what they want out of life and themselves.

Score: 17/20. The focus is definitely on their relationship, but it also spends time with the infinite time loop concept and whether or not they can get out of it.

Category 3: What happened to cause the couple to temporarily separate?

After Nyles and Sarah sleep together, for what we presume is the first time, there is noticeable tension between the two of them. After a run in with another character, Roy (played by J.K. Simmons), stuck in the infinite time loop, Nyles reveals to Sarah that he had lied to her when she asked him if they had ever slept together in previous restarts and that they have actually slept together many times. Sarah is upset and abruptly throws herself in front of a truck to restart the day and Nyles isn’t able to find her in future restarts.

Score: 15/20. Lying is always an easy way to introduce conflict into a relationship. It’s realistic and effective. In this case it works because it impacts the way Sarah sees herself and the way she sees Nyles.

Category 4: What happened to bring the characters back together?

After Nyles reveals to Sarah that they had slept together many times prior to the time we see in the movie, she starts researching ways to get out of the infinite time loop. Nyles attempts to find her, but can’t. Eventually, Sarah finds a potential way to leave the time loop. Nyles realizes that he loves Sarah and doesn’t want to be stuck in the time loop anymore, so he goes after Sarah and finds her as she’s about to attempt her escape plan. He gives a speech about how much she means to him and says that he’d rather die attempting to leave with her, then remain in the time loop without her.

Score: 13/20. Sarah going on a mission to find a way out of the time loop and not accepting the idea of being stuck in the same day forever is refreshing. She takes matters into her own hands, something her character hadn’t really done up to that point, and takes control of her life. In the process, Nyles realizes that despite how much he had adjusted to this way of life, he wants to be with Sarah, no matter the cost. There was no big grand gesture, but his speech is well delivered.

Category 5: Was there a montage?

There are actually a variety of different montages in Palm Springs. There is a montage to show the different ways Roy has returned to the wedding to kill Nyles for getting him stuck in the time loop. This is a hilarious montage. There is a montage of Nyles and Sarah spending their daily adventures together when Sarah decides to accept her fate in the time loop. There is a montage of Sarah attempting to research ways to get out of the time loop. There are lots of montages.

Score: 10/5. Huge score here for Palm Springs. Not only do they have one great montage, they have multiple great montages that help you better understand the characters, the world, and the passing of time.

Category 6: Did the couple end up together at the end?

As I mentioned in category 4, Nyles and Sarah reunite at the time loop cave where they express their love for each other and decide to risk leaving the time loop together. In order to do so, they have to trigger an explosion at the exact right moment to break out of the time loop. Yeah, physics! The next scene we see is Nyles and Sarah hanging out in a pool together. At first, it’s unclear if they have been successful in escaping the time loop, until the family whose pool they are in (one they have frequented when it was the same day repeating without interruption) returns home and you learn that it is no longer the same day.

Score: 10/10. After they are successful in leaving the time loop, they continue to be with each other and seem happy to be together. Simple, but it works.

Category 7: Was there a healthy balance of both romance and comedy?

This movie had a great mixture of both romance and comedy. It did great job of pairing the two together when possible, specifically when Nyles and Sarah are having their adventure montage, reliving the same day. It’s both funny and touching. The movie is filled with moments like this. It definitely balances itself well.

Score: 5/5.

Bonus Category: Was there a classic quote or line?

There a couple of good quotes from this movie, but my favorite is when Nyles is giving his speech to Sarah and he says, “We’re already sick of each other. It’s the best.”

Score: 2/5. I don’t think it will ultimately catch on, but it’s a solid line.


That brings us to the end of the categories. Let’s add up the scores to see where Palm Springs falls on the Debatable Rom-Com Movie Index.

Total Score: 84/100

Palm Springs is a Certified Rom-Com. If you are looking for an enjoyable twist on the Groundhog Day concept and like watching rom-coms, this movie is a lot of fun and the story is executed well.