Groundhog Day, 1993
Starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell
Synopsis (from NetFlix):
In this offbeat comedy from director Harold Ramis, self-centered TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is sent to Punxsutawney, Pa., to cover the groundhog’s annual appearance. Loathing the event, Connors unleashes his bitterness on his producer (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman (Chris Elliott). The next day, however, Connors finds he’s doomed to repeat Groundhog Day — again and again — until he learns that his actions can affect the outcome.
First I would like to thank a reader for suggesting I review this film. I decided to wait until Groundhog Day as it is only fitting. Groundhog Day is an American tradition, and more particularly a Pennsylvanian one at that, so I was not suprised when I looked for the movie poster to find that in French the title was translated as “Un Jour Sans Fin” loosely “The Day without end”. I liked that title since it more aptly describes the content of the film, but I am glad this film is about and titled Groundhog Day, since it has now become a semi-annual tradition to watch it (it is that good).
This film addresses many spiritual concepts through the amazing humor of the Bill Murray/Harold Ramis team. Weatherman Phil Connors starts off as a bitter, frustrated man, one whom even the audience would not sympathize akin to Scrooge (another Bill Murray role interestingly enough). He has made it known that he hates Punxsutawney and Groundhog Day and instead of holding that in, he unleases his annoyance on everyone from his coworkers to the friendly Bed and Breakfast owner. He gets his comeuppance though, when he is doomed to relive the day over and over.
I love this settup because it is something we all frequently face. When we are unhappy or displeased is it really fair or just to try to make everyone else around us miserable as well? Yet sometimes we do just that. It is not endearing. It does not make us truly feel any better because the circumstances that influenced our mood have not changed. Instead it makes it harder for our fellow people. And in doing that we lose their sympathy.
Phil Connors did just that in Groundhog Day, so when he woke up to relive the day all over he was stuck with the situation as it was and had to live with it. There was no choice. Is that not how life is every day?
At first Phil was disbelieving, and then he was downright depressed. He tried committing suicide a myriad of ways only to wake up again the morning of Groundhog Day. Again, this really intrigues me because suicide is a topic so scary, sad, yet fascinating. The World Religions council against it, but since we all do not truly know what happens after death we can never truly understand the consequences of this action. In this film it was moot, it did not help at all. In others, like Wristcutters which I will review in the future, the consequence was to return to a world just like ours except that the soda is always flat and people couldn’t smile.
Phil also tried stealing cars and robbing banks, but that too did not make the day go away. Finally he set about to capture the heart of his producer Rita. This was not an easy task considering how awfully he had treated her before. He had to transform himself. Again, a spiritual notion, for what is the purpose of religion if not transformation?
At first his attempts to change are superficial. He tries to learn things about her, like her love of poetry and her favorite ice cream flavor, so that he can charm her but he still is manipulative which is not part of a noble character, which both she and God/the Fates/the Universe can see through.
It is when he began to think of others instead of himself that life began to change. He would save a boy from falling out of a tree, and tried hard to save an old homeless man from dying. He cultivated the talent of piano playing, and auctioned himself off for charity. He apologized to people he had wronged. – things he never would have done the “first” Groundhog Day.
And in the end he did win the girl, and he did finally wake up on February 3rd, and throughout the process he made both his world and the world around him better.
“The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds and through commendable and seemly conduct.” ~