Groundhog Day Mar 5, 2014 17:43:29 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Mar 5, 2014 17:43:29 GMT -5
Groundhog Day (1993)
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Bill Murray with a groundhog in Groundhog Day.
NOTE: Contains very minor spoilers...
Groundhog Day is a miracle comedy, housing in every genre a film can handle such as truly haunting science-fiction, a beautiful romance, uproariously funny comedy, enticing drama, and a beautiful "seize the day" message tacked on as a nicely tied-bow instead of a completely manipulative screenwriting device.
At the film's core is a career-making performance by Billy Murray, an actor who can play a man of condescending intellect, deeply-rooted vulnerability, and charismatic and charming qualities all within the same scene. He is ideal for the character of Phil Connors, a local-area meteorologist sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in the sleepy town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the fourth year in a row. He loathes doing it because of the holiday's inherent silliness but goes along with it anyway in a smug fashion.
The events of the day involve him waking up in his hotel-room, eating breakfast, rushing to the festivities, running into an old "friend" from school who now sells insurance, and then being stuck in a blizzard on the way home. The day is long and merciless and Phil can't wait to fall asleep and start February 3rd. However, when Phil wakes up, it's still February 2nd and the same events unfold as if they'd never occurred. Phil is now reliving a day that went from terrible to an inconceivable nightmare over and over again. Each day's events become inconsequential happenings, as no matter what Phil does, he'll wake up at the same time, in the same hotel-room in the same fashion to the same song on the clock-radio, as if someone pushed a reset button on everything.
At first, Phil panics and worries, trying to make sense of what is happening. Nobody understands what he's going through (how can they?) and nobody seems to be in this same, alternate universe as Phil. As days turn into weeks, Phil begins having fun, causing a little bit of havoc, being sent to prison, annoying people in his life, etc. He uses it in a hedonistic way in some cases, as he waltzes down to the diner, abruptly and arbitrarily asks a girl for her personal information before returning the following day and using the newfound information to make a move on her.
But after a while, the effect becomes sickening to Phil, who realizes that even committing suicide is only met with the same result of waking up in the same hotel-room. What writers Danny Rubin and director Harold Ramis pull off, however, is something I would've never expected. They make it so the repetition wears on Phil but also the audience in a way that doesn't make the film boring or irritating but in a way that almost treads on empathy. It's a difficult thing to accurately summarize, but after watching the same day being relived on a consistent basis, with the scene of Phil waking up to the same annoying tune on the radio, begins to wear on us in a way that we feel as if we're stuck in this time loop as well. When Phil tries to explain his predicament to others, it's as if we're trying to explain to them what's happening in our heads (or, in some cases, maybe aloud) and can't get anyone to understand or listen to us.
Rubin and Ramis put us under a spell and give us no answers, another daring move on their behalf. We're never given a justification as to how long Phil is stuck in this trance (although Ramis has informally states anywhere from ten years to 10,000 years, which, with that information, just exhausts a person by the very thought of that) or, the bigger question, why?. This is wonderful because adding an explanation could've cheapened the entire film and its boldly original story, although perhaps both writers, who seemed to be on a neverending winning streak with their material here, could've found an original way to pull it off.
Furthermore, the film has an incredibly black concept for a comedy that can be so funny at times. The idea of this time loop occurring is something to tie your mind in knots, but if thought about at great length, the film is deeply haunting. Imagine one of your worst days being repeated over and over again with nothing you could do to escape it. Suicide isn't an option, staying in bed won't always work, and you can't tell anyone your problems because they simply will not make the slightest sense of them (neither can you, really). With Bill Murray at the center, the film manages to be both equal parts hilarious as well as dark and often bleak as can be.
Groundhog Day is sublime black-comedy filmmaking, housing an original premise, a brilliantly written script, an engaging and simultaneously depressing Bill Murray performance, and a concept to thoroughly contemplate. Being that Rubin and Ramis take so many risks with the storytelling, the concept, and the project, and discard conventional routes of explanation and simple justification, this could effectively be called experimental comedic filmmaking.
Starring: Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliot. Directed by: Harold Ramis.