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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Taken as a light comedy, this movie would rate perhaps eight stars out of
ten. But it's much, much more than just a light comedy. It is, in fact,
utterly unique. The character of Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, is,
quite literally, a man without a future.
What do we gain from watching this movie? Different people will take away different things from it. I discovered two very important truths in Groundhog Day.
One was the importance of concentrating on the things that last. Phil Connors must live the same day over and over again, and is forced to realize that the only real change that will ever be possible must happen within himself. (From this it is a short leap to the realization that this is the only kind of change that really matters; for in his case, it is literally true.) It is at this point that he takes up piano, begins reading, learns to ice-sculpt. But if it weren't for his unique predicament, he never would have realized this; in his routine at the TV studio back in Pittsburgh, we surmise, there was always something changing...and not changing. (It is interesting that Phil is a weatherman: the weather is a perfect metaphor for something that changes constantly...without, in the long term, changing at all.) We can be distracted by the superficial changes in the world around us, and forget that real change in our lives must come from within. This was the great gift of Groundhog Day for Phil Connors: the chance to discover this truth for himself.
The other thing I noticed, while reflecting on this movie, is how uncertainty can keep us from charitable acts. We use our ignorance like a crutch: we don't give to charity because it may be a scam, we don't offer to help someone because they may not need help anyway, and so on. But Phil doesn't have the luxury of ignorance. He knows...he knows with absolute certainty that if he doesn't buy the old man a bowl of soup, that man will die in the streets within a few hours. He knows that if he isn't on hand at the right time, a boy will fall from a tree and break his neck. Faced with such knowledge, even Phil, self-absorbed as he is, cannot stand by idly. Nor could we, in his position. This is a powerful argument for knowledge as the most reliable foundation for generous behavior. What other movie can offer an insight half so profound?
Many more truths can be mined from this movie. As others have said, this is a thought experiment that went very well indeed--better than anything I've ever seen on the Big Screen. As such, I'd vote for it as one of the greatest movies ever made, and very likely the most underrated movie ever made.
Even the funniest movies eventually stop making me laugh after I've
watched them enough times that the humor no longer surprises me. A joke
never has the same effect when you know the punch line in advance. But
every once in a blue moon, a comedy comes along that is so thoughtful
and meaningful in addition to being funny that after seeing it a dozen
times and laughing less often, I start noticing its depth and insight.
For me, no movie has so perfectly united hilarity with profundity as
"Groundhog Day," which happens to be my favorite movie of all time.
Superficially, this film belongs roughly in the same genre as "All of Me" and "Liar Liar," comedies in which a character becomes the victim of some weird supernatural fate and must adapt to the insane logic of the situation. But Steve Martin and Jim Carrey are geniuses of physical comedy, whereas Bill Murray specializes in understatement. I can't imagine any other approach having worked for this film, where the world is going crazy around Phil the weatherman, Murray's hard-edged character who keeps his emotions bottled up. What makes the initial scenes in which he first discovers his fate so hilarious is the mounting panic in his demeanor even as he tries to act like everything's normal. All he can think of to say is, "I may be having a problem." Uh, no kidding. Throughout the rest of the film, he'll deliver similarly muted lines to describe his situation, like "My years are not advancing as fast as you might think." It's striking that a man who has all the time in the world would choose his words so carefully, but it reflects a well-conceived screenplay.
In this comedy, the laughs are reinforced by repetition. The absurdity of Phil discovering that he's repeating the same day is funny enough, but every time that alarm clock goes off, and the radio starts playing, "I Got You Babe," and Phil goes through the same motions and meets the same people and then goes out into the street to be accosted by the same annoying high school buddy ("Phiiiil?"), I laugh again because I'm reminded how funny it was the first time around. People who didn't like this film (I've met one or two) emphasize how annoying it is that everything gets repeated. I sort of understand that complaint, since jokes repeated over and over usually fail miserably. "Groundhog Day," however, works uniquely well because the situation gets increasingly absurd and Phil gets increasingly desperate with each day that fails to pass.
The film would have fizzled out quickly had it spent the entire hour-and-a-half showing Phil meeting the same people and doing the same things time and again. The fact that "Groundhog Day" avoids this fate is one of its more striking qualities, since most high-concept comedies of this sort fall apart in the third act. "Groundhog Day" is a rare example of one that completely follows through with its premise, leading from the initial situation logically to the ending. Only the Jeopardy scene feels like a skit that could have appeared anywhere. But this scene actually is placed wisely: it occurs when Phil is becoming increasingly bored and lethargic, and it is used to separate two hilarious scenes where he gives nutty television reports.
It is in the middle, centering on Phil's attempts to seduce Rita, when the film reveals itself to be more than just a comedy. The underlying implication of these scenes is that Phil's powers are less important than he thinks they are. He probably could have done the same things (such as his exploits with Nancy) under ordinary circumstances, without the hocus pocus. In the end, his powers don't matter, because Rita is too smart and sees right through him. She may not understand the full supernatural implications of what he's doing, but she senses that he's somehow manipulating the situation. Phil may think he's a god, but he isn't all-powerful.
Phil's character development is convincing largely because we can so easily believe the situation would force him to look inward. Because he loves such a sincere woman as Rita, the only way he can finally impress her is by genuinely changing himself rather than faking it. The change he undergoes isn't an implausible leap, for he maintains many of the same basic character traits he had at the beginning, even though he becomes kinder and more caring. Earlier, Rita says that egocentrism is Phil's "defining characteristic," and, indeed, he doesn't stop being egocentric at the end; he merely learns to channel the egocentrism in a positive direction.
I have trouble imagining any other actor having pulled this off. Murray is not the only comic actor to have proved himself capable of dramatic depth, but he's one of the few who can so seamlessly combine his humorous and serious side into the same character. And he's a master at conveying complex emotions through an apparent deadpan. When his delivery sounds stilted in this film, the effect is intentional, for he's playing a man whose life has become a script.
Though this film has a serious message, it is still quintessentially a comedy. But it's a comedy that uses psychological exploration of a fascinating character to make its point. After the laughter has worn down, "Groundhog Day" turns out to be one of the richest and deepest films I've ever seen.
I thought the film was terrific when I saw it in theaters twelve years
ago. Recently in watching it again on cable, I was amazed at the
quality of the screenplay. I didn't notice the first time. But on
repeated viewings (like reliving Groundhog Day), I was impressed at the
story created by the writers. This film is so much more than witty
jokes and comic riffs arranged around a gimmick. It has an internal
logic and consistency that is very rarely found in screenplays. No joke
seemed disposable, and as you laugh your way along, the philosophy
underlying the film takes over your imagination.
Check the IMDb listings for this film's awards: look at the numerous British awards for writing. And yet this film was not even nominated for an Oscar. It is so rare that a film's jokes seem just as fresh more than a decade later, but I believe that is because the theme underlying the humor will never go out of fashion.
The acting was terrific, and I now think this is Bill Murray's best work (though I didn't take it seriously when I first saw the film.) But the screenplay is the one of the finest ever written. I don't know if it's studied in film schools, but it ought to be.
* * * * *
ON HAROLD RAMIS' DEATH: Ramis told The Associated Press in a 2009 story about the 50th anniversary of Second City. "When you hit it right, those things last."
I found that quote in a story on Ramis' death. The story curiously did not mention "Groundhog Day." If there is any film to serve as a fitting memorial for Harold Ramis, it must be "Groundhog Day." A totally perfect script, perfectly executed. He hit it right, and when will he get the recognition he deserved decades ago?
In Harold Ramis's "Groundhog Day" (1993), an intriguing comedy about
repeating the past, Bill Murray is Phil Connors, an arrogantly
self-centered and cynical TV weatherman, sent for the fifth time to the
small town of Punxsutawney, PA to cover the Groundhog ceremony held
every February 2nd. He stumbles into a time warp and winds up repeating
the same day over and over again until forced to look at himself from
the distance and to examine his attitude.
I love this movie not only it is one of the best, most original, clever and funniest comedies I've seen, it also makes you think of the serious questions. For instance, when Gods want to punish a mean, arrogant SOB, they would not take his sanity away they will make the whole world around him mad and let him deal with the situation. Or another question, what would you do if you have eternity on your hands? Is it a curse or blessing?
Groundhog Day does not reuse tired and stupid jokes; its humor comes from the situations and characters. Bill Murray was born to play Phil Connors and movie uses his talent as a comedian to the fullest. I think it was the best role Murray ever played. His character has gone through transformation before our eyes, and it was very convincing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two clues to tell if a movie is great is how often it is copied and how
it has become a part of American slang. Groundhog Day has had both
happen to it. Warning: POSSIBLE SPOILERS. Bill Murray played Phil
Connors, a egocentric and grumpy weatherman in Pennsylvania who goes to
Punxsutawny, Pa every year to see if the groundhog sees his shadow for
the local television station with his producer, played by the wonderful
Andie MacDowell, and his cameraman, played by a low keyed Chris Elliot.
Everything goes as Phil expects on the first day, except he is caught in a blizzard and has to stay the night. The next morning he awakes and it's Groundhog Day again! This pattern happens over and over again until he realizes he cannot escape Groundhog Day. In time Phil realizes the advantages of knowing what's going to happen before it happens and Murray takes full comic advantage of it.
However if this film was just that, it would be just a normal run of the mill comedy. Murray's character Phil learns and grows and becomes a better person during the course of the film and learns to love the town in which he felt he was trapped in. The chemistry with MacDowell's character of Rita is wonderful. It's a great film and to my mind the best comedy, no perhaps the best movie I have ever seen.
Bill Murray can be a very funny guy, especially when given roles where
his character has a deliciously cruel edge. He has one of those faces,
and a voice to go with it, which can make nastiness and sarcasm funny.
Groundhog Day is a highly enjoyable vehicle for Murray's talents. It
also has a very clever concept, neatly brought to the screen by
actor-turned-director Harold Ramis (who starred alongside Murray in the
Pittsburgh weather-man Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is sent on assignment to Punxatawney, where on Groundhog Day each year the locals have a tradition of consulting the groundhog to find out if spring is imminent or if they should prepare for 6 more weeks of winter. Phil despises the job and the town, and can't wait to get it over with.... even though he has a soft spot for Rita (Andie MacDowell), the producer overseeing his broadcast. Phil's dislike of Punxatawney, its people and its traditions is set to get a hell of a lot worse though.... as when he awakens the next morning he finds himself reliving the same day. And so it goes - every time Phil gets up, it's still February 2nd and he seems destined to be stuck in the same day for the rest of eternity.
It seems early on in the proceedings that the film might run out of steam and inspiration. After all, how can a film about a day which repeats itself be anything but repetitive? Thankfully, Groundhog Day is full of ingenious ideas, and it successfully throws up new developments and delightful twists at every opportunity. The film is laced with memorable dialogue, and Murray gets to play one of the defining roles of his career as a facetious, sharp-tongued misanthrope who ultimately learns the error of his ways. Groundhog Day is a very good film indeed, and restores one's faith in the imagination still lurking beneath the dismayingly shallow surface of Hollywood.
Often you hear the adage, "It is just a film". Well, for most times it
is true. But on rarest of rare occasions, it isn't. This was one of
them. Like a great piece literature, painting, poetry, speech it has
the capacity to change the way you feel and think. It is the biggest
compliment I can pay to a film. I rank Groundhog Day with Seventh Seal,
Wild Strawberries, Waking Life, Synecdoche New York, Tokyo Story, Ikiru
as one of the moves that has the capacity to change.
It is anything but a preachy film as the "intro" to the review might suggest. In fact it an extremely entertaining and funny film with one of the best performances ever by Bill Murray. The plot revolves around a weather man (Bill Murray) is reluctantly sent to cover a story about a weather forecasting "rat" (as he calls it). This is his fourth year on the story, and he makes no effort to hide his frustration. On awaking the 'following' day he discovers that it's Groundhog Day again, and again, and again. First he uses this to his advantage, then comes the realization that he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place, seeing the same people do the same thing every day.
The challenge here for the makers was in terms of screenplay, editing and performances. Bear in mind that, the "loops" Bill Murray's character goes through, might become redundant for the audience after a while. This is where the genius of Harold Ramis and Bill Murray comes into play, who seem to introduce a "novelty" factor with every shot of the same sequence. I couldn't think of any actor other than Murray who could have pulled this one off.
It is a movie likely to deceive you in its effortless narrative and casual comic tone. Yes, it is funny, but make no mistake about it, it is a film with a strong philosophical undertone. This is a quality that separates Groundhog from rest of the movies with similar intent. It tells you what it intends to on your terms. It deals with the questions that bother us for a better part of our lives i.e. meaning of life, purpose of life, existentialism, death, god but never preaches, nor propels any propaganda. But by the end of it, you know that something has changed, something you didn't see coming has happened. And then you watch it again only to realize the moment of Epiphany that eluded you the first time.
Every time I am down or losing perspective this is the movie that eases everything and makes me ask a simple question, "What is important?". One of the absolute great films of the 90s, but more than just a film for me.
* May contain spoilers *
Let's face it: everyone's a sucker for romantic comedies, but this one is something special. This movie has as much charm as it has bite, thanks to a fantastic script and Murray's excellent performance. Never dull or cheesy, this wonderful fantasy tale just hits all the right notes, and if anyone knows a better rom-com, please name it. I mean: what other romantic comedies are there where the protagonist commits suicide and you just have to laugh?
I've watched 'Groundhog Day' countless times and, without a doubt, I will watch it again and again (or for as long as I keep waking up to that nerve-wrecking song by Sonny & Cher). Priceless. My vote: 10 out of 10.
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a weatherman for a local news station.
Every year he goes to Puxatawney, Pennsylvania for the Puxatawney Phil
event: commonly recognized as Groundhog Day. You know how it goes. The
groundhog comes out. If it sees its shadow, it's six more weeks of
winter. If it doesn't, it's spring.
Well, the only problem about going to this event every year for Phil is that he hates it. He hates the cheery people. The little town. The weather. The event. The story. Everything. He hates it. He is a lonely, desolate, forsaken soul. With a great cynical side.
Andie McDowell plays a new manager--err, womanager :)--who goes with Phil to the event, along with Chris Elliot, the cameraman. Phil reports, they tape it, it's a done deal. The end. Phil goes back home. Only one problem. Due to severe weather, the roads have all been closed, leaving only one option: Stay in Puxatawney until the storm blows over. So, Phil heads back to his cheery hotel, and tucks in for a dreaded nap. But when he wakes the next morning, something odd happens. The day is the exact same day as before. It is Groundhog Day. Again. Phil panics as he finds everything exactly the same as it was the day before. He knows everything that is going to happen. He shrugs it off as a weird case of deja-vu and heads back to sleep. But when he wakes up, alas! The day is...yesterday. Again. Technically.
So Phil comes to terms with the fact that there is now way out of this small little town. He tries everything. He steps in front of a moving car. He electrocutes himself. He jumps off a building. All to no avail. Oh, he dies, all right. But the next day he's back and it's Groundhog Day again.
Part of what makes "Groundhog Day" so excellent is the story. The characters and actors alone are great enough to recommend this movie, but the truth is, I cannot think of a better story to throw someone like Bill Murray into. He uses his smart-alecky ways to a new extreme. His character is a bit like Scrooge from the tale "A Christmas Story," which is ironic, because Murray was in a parody on Scrooge's tale called "Scrooged." Anyway. Bill Murray is perfect as the irreverent and cynical Phil. Everything he does he carries out with a dumb, "I'm-smarter-than-you" face. He thinks himself better than everyone else. He thinks he is smart by skipping the big Holiday ordeal. It is all so stupid to him. But, as this story teaches us, having an attitude like that can get you in big trouble.
Harold Ramis, director of "Analyze This," star of "Stripes," directed "Groundhog Day." Bill and he are old pals, and it sure shows. I bet they had a great time making this movie. But what is good about it is that while making a fun movie they didn't forget to come up with an interesting and audience-catching tale.
Another thing that is great about "Groundhog Day" is that Phil Connors does what we would do. For example: When he finds out he has this ability to repeat the same day over and over, he does things the average person would do. The human weakness. Too many comedies with the same formula don't try to exploit this human weakness, but "Groundhog Day" does. We see Phil memorize the steps to successfully robbing an armored truck filled with cash. But the reason he can go to bed with a clear conscience is because he knows the next day that everything will be back to normal again. He will never have robbed the truck, never have bought a Ferarri, etc. Phil does what WE would do, and that is one importance aspect of "Groundhog Day." I would never rob an armored truck, but if I was stuck living the same day over and over, it would do no harm to take the cash - it would be back in the truck in the morning! So, I might do that. (although my conscience would still get in the way.) There was a little comedy with John Candy named "Delirious." It was about a soap opera writer getting trapped in his own world. And everything he writes on his typewriter comes true. While the movie was good, and pretty interesting, there were so many things Candy could have done with the ability to create and control any - and every- thing, and he didn't do them. I think that's where "Groundhog Day" steps in, filling in the blanks. There's nothing I love more than watching a comedy where the main character divulges into the human nature - in other words, I love watching the character do something the average human would do when given the power(s). And that's exactly what Phil does in "Groundhog Day." And that is why, among other things, it is one of my favorites.
Not counting Caddy shack, this is Bill Murray's best performance. While
Christmas and Halloween have their annual holiday movies, who would
have thought that Groundhog Day would have a movie of its own.
A terrific (family) movie, Bill Murray stars as a sullen / sarcastic news reporter who is stuck living the same day over and over again....until he gets it right. This comedy stands alone as one of the funniest and most original movies of the 90's. Not many comedies can be funny and also end with a moral. Groundhog Day has both. Before the Farrelly Brothers or Wes Anderson found an audience, there was Groundhog Day. Pennsylvania never looked better or funnier.
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