Friday, 5 May 2017

Groundhog Day (1993)

Fig 1 - Groundhog Day Poster
Directed by Harold Ramis, Groundhog Day tells the story of an egocentric newscaster who mysteriously finds himself living the same day over and over again. When Phil (Bill Murray) is asked to once again report on the annual Groundhog Day festivities, he is less than keen to do so. However, when he wakes up the next morning it becomes all too clear that the day has repeated itself. The same Sonny & Cher song blares from his alarm clock. The same annoying radio hosts do their patter. And once again, the town is buzzing with excitement over one big question - will the groundhog see it's own shadow and predict many weeks of winter to come? Initially Phil tries to seek help from Rita (Andie MacDowell), his producer, whom he finds himself smitten with. But of course, she thinks he's lost his mind. Having come to terms with the fact that life is on repeat, Phil goes to extreme lengths to alter his future. But he'll have to change his ways for the better if he's ever to make it past the worst day of the year...

I had seen the majority of the film roughly ten years ago and never made it to the end, for whatever reason. Since then I have always wondered how the cycle was broken but never returned to it until today. They truly could have ended the film in a number of ways and it still would have been pretty perfect. It dares to explore the infinite possibilities of the high-concept world it establishes, even going as far as killing it's lead just to see how the plot is affected. But in the universe of the film, even the various suicides of our tortured Phil are made comical. What was also surprising to me is just how much of a romantic comedy it is. After the initial stage-setting yucks, Phil becomes entirely devoted to winning Rita's affection and, ultimately, leads him to become a better person. It reminded me of the tone of Bruce Almighty (2003) in the sense that the first half is a free-for-all in terms of getting laughs from an all-powerful character. Following this, the character realises that they have to learn to help others rather than help themselves, which is a pretty poignant message put across here. In addition, there's the glaring statement that we essentially do live in Groundhog Day, we just never act on pursuing our ambitions because we fear the consequences. I believe it all really amounts to a life-affirming comment on human happiness and undoubtedly leaves one feeling motivated to achieve more in our day-to-day.

Fig 2 - Groundhog Day - Phil and the groundhog go for a drive
At this point Bill Murray had fully ingratiated himself as a comedic actor, from his legendary run on Saturday Night Live to films like Ghostbusters (1984) and Scrooged (1988) (both of which I have not seen, though I hear good things...). In Groundhog Day, Murray is at his best playing a character with the ability to make us laugh whilst also bringing a level of nuance to his performance. That said, the likes of Chris Elliot and Stephen Tobolowsky manage to bring plenty of humour to the table as supporting characters in the many days we endure.

On the whole, I really like this movie. I think the romance arc deviates the film from being just an out-and-out 'comedy', but it doesn't detract from the experience and gives more dimension to characters that could have easily just been pawns in a big set-up for evermore elaborate punch-lines. It's funny, touching and would make a never-ending loop all the more bearable.


Fig. 1 Groundhog Day Poster (1993) From: Groundhog Day - Directed by: Harold Ramis

Fig. 2 Groundhog Day Poster (1993) From: Groundhog Day - Directed by: Harold Ramis

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