#52 Groundhog Day

(1993, Harold Ramis)

“What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today!”

OK, campers, rise and shine, today is an especially exciting day. Yes, that’s right, it’s Groundhog Day! And the question on everybody’s chapped lips is will the groundhog see his shadow? And also, will Bill Murray ever stop living the same day over and over again?

Yes, Groundhog Day, that well-known movie where weatherman Phil Connors (Murray) lives the same day over and over again. Everyone knows this movie, so I’m not going to waste my time reviewing it. Sorry to disappoint you, but I have better things to do.

OK, campers, rise and shine, today is an especially exciting day. Yes, that’s right, it’s Groundhog Day! And the question on everybody’s chapped lips is will the groundhog see his shadow? And also, will Bill Murray ever stop living the same day over and over again?

Yes, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as…wait, hang on…

Oh, I see what you’re doing. Ha ha, very funny. You still expect me to review this? It’s the movie that became a cultural phrase to describe something incredibly repetitive. Everyone knows it. Everybody’s seen it. It’s pointless for me to review it. Goodbye.

OK, campers, rise and shine, today is an especially exciting day. Yes, that’s right, it’s Groundhog Day! And the question on everybody’s chapped lips is will the groundhog see his shadow? And also, will Bill Murray ever stop living the same day over and over again?

Oh Jesus. No. Look, it’s pointless. In fact, just to spite you, I’m going to review a different Bill Murray movie. Groundhog Day isn’t even my favourite movie out the ones he’s done, you know, and a film that is one of my favourites wasn’t added to the 1001 Movies for some inexplicable reason. So to spite you, I’ll review that instead.

Lost In Translation (2003, Sofia Coppola) stars Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson as two strangers who meet while staying in Tokyo and develop a rather intimate friendship due to their mutual feelings of isolation so far away from home. Murray plays an out of work actor, Bob Harris, who in Tokyo filming adverts for Suntory Whiskey. Johansson is the wife of a hip music photographer.

OK, campers, rise and shine, today is an especially exciting day. Yes, that’s right, it’s Groundhog Day! And the question on everybody’s chapped lips is will the groundhog see his shadow? And also, will Bill Murray ever stop living the same day over and over again?

Fine. I’ll do the damn review.

In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, Pittsburgh-based weatherman. A surly, misanthropic fellow, Connors hates having to produce news stories about the Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every year. Aiming to get out of town as soon as possible, he finds himself trapped in the town by a sudden blizzard, and wakes the next morning to find that he’s also trapped by a persistent time loop that forces him to relive the day over and over again. Over the course of the movie, he discovers what he can do with it, and ultimately reforms and becomes a better person for it.

Conceptually, the movie is brilliant. The idea of living the same day over and over again has many levels on which it can be explored, and many of them are brought up here. Do you live like there’s no tomorrow, since there isn’t, and recklessly throw yourself into hedonism? Do you test the relationships you have with people by saying things you wouldn’t normally say out of fear of upsetting them? Would you despair and merely try to kill yourself, only to find that even that is impossible, meaning you’re stuck in a fate worse than death? Or would you try and correct all that you did wrong?

It’s unfortunate, then, that Groundhog Day fails to explore enough of these aspects and devolves into a fairly awkward love story. Sure, those themes are brought up, but they’re only brief sections in a movie that boils down to Phil ultimately trying to win over his colleague Rita (Andie McDowell), an aspect of the plot that’s given far too much weight considering the other possibilities that could have been explored here.

When the real implications of what can be done are brought in, the movie is brilliant, not least because Murray is fantastic as usual. His acting when he kidnaps the groundhog or tries to evade police in a high-speed chase is top notch. Even the ways that Phil ends up helping people work well as it shows a deep understanding of how he can “correct” the day. But when that romance plot steps in, it seriously spoils things.

Maybe it’s a personal thing, simply because I failed to connect with McDowell’s character in any way at all. She felt boring, especially when Phil attempted to learn more about her. Because of this, Phil’s attempts to win her over felt pointless to me. What’s more, I felt that the movie would have benefitted from showing us more of how he helped the residents of Punxsutawney overall, rather than constantly focusing on his attempts to win a single woman over. We only see a glimpse of this towards the end of the movie during his redemption as a better person, and this could have been strengthened by taking a look at some of the deeper stories beforehand, fleshing out the residents as greater characters. The furthest this goes is in his minimal efforts to save the life of a homeless man, but this plot thread ultimately goes nowhere.

Groundhog Day is a good film with a good concept and some very funny moments, but ultimately it gets so bogged down in a fairly generic romantic subplot that it becomes painfully obvious how much more it could have achieved had it dropped the focus on the Hollywood romance.

OK, campers, rise and shine, today is an especially exciting day. Yes, that’s right, it’s Groundhog Day! And the question on everybody’s chapped lips is will the groundhog see his shadow? And also, will Bill Murray ever stop living the same day over and over again?

Now stop that.

Starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell & Chris Elliot
Written by Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis
Produced by Trevor Albert & Harold Ramis
Music score by George Fenton
Cinematography by John Bailey
Edited by Pembroke J. Herring

Favourite Scene: Phil gets drunk with a couple of small town hicks in a bowling alley. The rambling conversation leading to the speeding and police chase is easily the most entertaining part of the whole movie, and even manages to touch on some of the smarter aspects of the concept at the same time.
Scene That Bugged Me: The second Phil starts focusing his efforts on winning over Rita.

Watch it if: Bill Murray. That’s it, just Bill Murray
Avoid it if: You find Andie McDowell’s character just as dull as I did

Originally posted on Blogspot Groundhog Day (2 Feb) 2012

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Posted on April 14, 2012, in 1990s, Comedy, Romance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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