Film Fridays - Groundhog Day

Category: , By Rev/Views

Well we've already had a Science Fiction/Horror movie and an action movie, so this time I'm going to go with one of my favourite comedy films - Groundhog Day. By now I'm sure you're at least somewhat familiar with the concept of the film. If you're not, or you want a refresher I'll break it down for you now.

Groundhog Day is a simple concept turned into an exceptional film - the core concept of it being "what if you had to live the same day over and over?" At it's heart this is an exceptionally simple concept, almost deceptively so. But what emerges from the other end is a genuine and enjoyable exploration of the human psyche and issues humans have with repetitive living.

Bill Murray stars as Phil, Phil Conners. A weatherman who it seems has reached his peak and found out he's standing on what is pretty much a hillock. Every year he heads off to the little town of Punxsutawney Philadelphia to see if Little Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog is predicting more winter or not (how wonderfully alliterative). The difference this year is he's travelling down there with his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and Larry the camera man (Chris Elliott).

His experience while down there is pretty awful, the day does not pass well for him and after going through the motions he finds that a blizzard has moved in, meaning he's stuck in Punxsutawney for the night. Only when he awakens the following morning he discovers that it's groundhog day - again! And again, and again, and again and again...

The rest of the movie plays itself out on two levels, the first is a simple and enjoyable comedy with humour being derived from the fact that Phil's been here so long he's learnt just about everything he could ever know about the town. He experiences almost everything, the only goal remaining beyond his grasp is Rita herself.

The second level is a little (but not much) more subtle, it's a play on the psychology of the individual and also coming to terms with loss and grief. It's also a tale of self-improvement, Phil only escapes from his inexplicable trap after he's improved himself as a person and learnt to appreciate others instead of being so selfish (a modern day Buddhist story if you like).

Phil himself goes through many of the seven stages of death, at first he's shocked about what's happened, then he moves briefly into denial and bargaining - attempting to escape from the situation, Phil doesn't really stop in guilt to much beyond wondering why it's happening to him before rapidly heading off into anger and depression. But finally he does settle on acceptance, and that's when he begins to look at improving himself - finally breaking free of the cycle when he achieves a completely selfless day, one spent bringing joy to others.

The performances across the cast are almost uniformly fantastic, Bill Murray of course holds this show up - but he's the perfect man for the job. Amongst the supporting cast it's Stephen Tobolowsky (as Needle Ned) who stands out, but just about everyone is great. With of course one exception - Andie MacDowell - she's a lovely woman to look at, but she's never really been any good at acting. While she's not as wooden as she is in Four Weddings and a Funeral she is still pretty bad at times and remains the only rough spot in an otherwise perfect film.

While there's a lot to recommend about Groundhog Day there are also a few things to be wary about, this isn't a film for everyone and I'm going to list a few reasons why you might not enjoy it:

Groundhog Day isn't for you if:

1. You don't find Bill Murray funny or endearing. 2. You get frustrated if mysterious things happen without explanation (like say a time loop). 3. You get annoyed with time travel concepts (even if this isn't a time travel movie as such). 4. You have no sense of humour. 5. Repetitiveness annoys you. 6. Repetitiveness annoys you. 7. Repetitiveness annoys you. 8. You want a film with action and excitement in it rather than soul searching and understanding of the human condition. 9. Andie MacDowell's acting irritates you. or 10. Repetitiveness annoys you.

Ultimately Groundhog Day is an enjoyable and charming film which mixes great comedy, a dash of romance and an interesting existential journey together, resulting in something which I can watch again and again, and again.


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