So I was at a birthday party at the weekend and I got talking to this girl about films. She listed a few of her favourites (like The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and some others) and then I mentioned one of my all-time favourites Groundhog Day. She said she’d seen it but hadn’t really thought much about it which I took as an opportunity to spend the next 10 minutes telling her how great a film it is, why it’s such a great film and why it gets better the more times you see it. And now it’s your turn…
The basic premise of the film is a rather unsavoury weather man – Phil Connors played masterfully by Bill Murray – finds himself and a film crew in a town called Punxsutawney to report on the tradition that if a groundhog (we call them marmots in Europe) emerges from its lair and sees its shadow then the Winter will last a few weeks longer – otherwise it’s hello Spring! Phil is completely unenthused about the whole thing and is rude, inconsiderate, obnoxious, sexist and a real jerk. He then wakes up the next day to find that it is once again Groundhog day and he’s reliving it. Rather confused he goes through the motions, does his report again and goes to bed. But he wakes up once again on Groundhog day.
What I love about Groundhog Day is that as you watch him stuck living the same day over and over again you feel the same thoughts and feelings as him. First of all you’re wondering “what the hell is going on?”. Then he starts to use it to his advantage to chat up women and pull them. He realises he can do anything he likes without consequence and enjoys that for a while. He takes the time to learn to play the piano and carve ice sculptures, amongst other things. But then he starts to get sick of the whole thing and you feel his pain. Each morning he’s awoken by the song “I got you babe” by Sonny and Cher and after a while you start to hate hearing it yourself – he throws the radio against the wall, breaks it and you know you’d do the same yourself.
So he tries killing himself but just wakes up and the day starts over. He becomes desperate and just wants out – but he’s stuck living the same day over and over again. His producer Rita – played by Andie MacDowell – takes his fancy but while attempting to get her into bed in a single day (she hates him at the start of the day so it’s a tall order), he manages to fall in love with her. The night ends with her slapping him in the face but he can try it again and again and again – or so he thinks. No matter how he tries to perfect the day he just can’t reproduce the spark that made him fall for her and eventually he just gives up.
There’s a beautiful scene that you’d miss if you watched it for the first time (I know I did). While trying to woo Rita for the first time he gets in a snowball fight with some kids and they end up falling in the snow together in just such a way that they catch each other’s eye and that’s when he falls for her. In subsequent nights he tries to make that random moment happen again but he just doesn’t fall in the right position and it just never happens again. Phil starts to realise he can’t make things happen just because he wants them to to suit his own ends.
So eventually he resigns himself to being stuck on the same day by revelling in it. He gets to know everybody, manages to synchronise his day so that he can catch a kid who falls out of a tree, replace a flat tyre for some old ladies who break down, perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a man choking in a restaurant and by doing all that becomes a changed me. An old homeless man dies over and over again and Phil tries his best to save him but eventually realises he can’t – he’s not God. In the end Rita falls for the new Phil and he finds tomorrow finally comes.
It’s a brilliant film and has a great deal of subtle undertones that only become apparent the more you watch it. When he goes bowling with some of the locals and tells them that he’s living the same day over and over one of them replies with something like “I know exactly what you mean”. We all drift through the same day over and over again and feel like we’re in Groundhog Day, but Phil broke the cycle by stopping worrying about it and trying to make the best of each day and making those around him happy (even though he only actually had one of them). So if you haven’t seen it then I recommend you sit down and watch it. Laugh along and have Sonny and Cher too – but look beneath the surface and see if it makes you think.
Oh, and if you don’t and you’re ever unlucky enough to talk films with me you’ll get this whole lecture and I’ll keep going on at you until you promise me you’ll watch it. Or maybe you’ll promise me you’ll watch it and mentally cross me off your “speak to again” list – which is probably what that poor girl on Saturday night did!
It’s a great film but totally unrealistic – everyone knows that the marmot would have savaged the good people of Punxsutawney.
You’re quite right – those marmots are merciless, vicious killing machines. During the filming of the scene where Bill Murray kidnaps the marmot apparently it bit him twice! A lucky escape…
A bit of a Groundhog Day moment that, as I was unlucky enough to talk films with John only the other week, although in that case it was about 2001: A Space Odyssey! 😉
Seriously, Groundhog Day is a great film and I now feel inspired to see if it’s on Film4 any time soon.
I heard a rumour that the Marmot bit Bill Murray about 251 times, but he just woke up the next day and was fine again.
John: Just don’t get me talking about Steven Seagal films! 😉
And Paul: Don’t underestimate the temper of an angry marmot!
The best thing that someone pointed out to me about the film, is the way it follows the classic depression sequence of denial -> anger -> bargaining -> depression -> acceptance.
Massif – you’re absolutely right, and I didn’t notice that either! It’s a clever film is Groundhog Day.
And for Johns next up-to-the-minute film review…”Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” 🙂
Ha ha! Yeah, like my fashion sense, I’m a few years behind with my film reviews!
I only watched ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ the other day, an absolute classic.
To think that Cameron Frye wrecked his dad’s Ferrari and then went on to become a Star Trek Captain.
“You couldn’t make it up”
It certainly is – I’ve not seen it for a few years, maybe I’ll have to track a copy down and relive my youth!
I dig this movie, but I love almost all of Bill Murray’s 80’s-early 90’s movies. I especially like Scrooged and the season is right for that one to be coming up soon.
Yeah, Scrooged is another of my favourite films really due to Bill Murray’s performance. He plays off-the-wall characters brilliantly – a very under-rated actor if you ask me!
I, too, love classic Steven Seagal movies. The newer ones tend to have a lot of his dialogue and stunts dubbed or doubled. But his early ones, including Marked For Death, Above The Law and, of course, Under Siege were great mindless action movies. If any of you haven’t seen it, may I suggest the Glimmer Man with Keenan Ivory Wayans and S.S. One of my all-time favourites.
You should put a list of his movies on your site with the ones you have and haven’t seen and we can try to compare with you and see who has seen the most and who sees them all first.
Oh yeah, I absolutely love Steven Seagal movies! I think I’ve seen pretty much all of them although as I wrote back in 2004, when you’ve seen one you’ve pretty much seen them all! 😉
Under Siege and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory are two of my favourites – particularly the one liners from the bad guys, especially when they discuss who Seagal’s character is and how visibly shaken they get. Quality!
I even remember one where he got the girl at the end – most unlike his normal films – but strangely I really enjoyed it!