Groundhog Day is more than just a perfect movie, it’s a masterpiece. It still holds up as one of the great classics of all time. It does feel odd saying this, but it’s up there with movies like It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s one of those movies that you can think back and realize it has always been there.
Of course that’s kind of easy to say, after all it’s named after a “holiday.” Granted it’s not a big deal (outside of Punxsutawney), but it happens every year and it makes for a great excuse to put in Groundhog Day and give it a watch. Not that the movie needs an excuse to watch.
Phil Connors, played by the brilliant Bill Murray is a weatherman on TV for a small channel, but he thinks of himself as more important than he really is. A bit of a narcissist and pretty misanthropic too. He’s the type of person you’d say is “stuck in his ways.” He’s happy how he is and why wouldn’t he be? He loves himself.
Phil is sent to Punxsutawney to cover the groundhog ceremony and tell us if he sees his shadow or not on Groundhog Day – yes, this is actually a thing that happens. He goes with Rita, the producer, played by Andie MacDowell who is the complete opposite of Phil in every way. She’s a warm, kind, and optimistic person. She, unlike Phil, is happy and excited to be covering the groundhog ceremony. Oh, and there’s Chris Elliott as the camera guy. He’s great for his part, but he’s mostly useless, and the movie kind of plays on that which is fun.
Some elements happen to Phil all through the day. Some things are important and others seem more trivial, but all become important over time and tie together in a really nice bow. After they cover the ceremony, they go their own ways. They can’t leave town due to a snowstorm and they’re now stuck until morning. However, morning never comes for Phil as he starts reliving the same day… Groundhog Day. Also, those things that happened throughout the day to Phil repeat themselves. All of which become more important over time. All of which affect Phil.
At first Phil uses this time loop (not time travel) to his advantage, like by stealing money off the back of an armored truck. He knows everything that’s going to happen, and when it happens, to the point of being able to count down to events.
However, as the days repeat, never changing, Phil does change. He starts to become a better person. He starts to like the people and becomes well-known in town. Also, the little things that happened on his first day move from the background to the foreground.
For instance, as Phil is headed to the town square, he happens to see a homeless man wanting change. Instantly Phil moves away in disgust, pretending to to look for change to give while not stopping. He reacts the same way multiple times and then finally stops and gives the old man a wad of money. Later he finds the old man not doing well and takes him to the hospital, where he dies simply to old age. Phil refuses to believe it and spends the next handful of repeated “days” doing all he can for the old man. This perfectly encompasses Phil’s character arc, how he learned to care about others, not just himself.
Another change is he starts to fall for Rita, the whole movie is about Phil being forced to change as a person and become better. What comes along with that is a love story between him and Rita. It starts out kind of sleazy on his part, using the repeated days to learn more about her and use that to his advantage to try getting with her. She’s not so easily manipulated, so he constantly fails at making any headway with her. It’s hilarious seeing a montage of her slapping his face.
After enough time of this, he begins falling in love with her. It becomes more than just trying to work her over. Phil now realizes he wants someone to share his life with. The bitter cold and loneliness of repeating the same day has shown him what he’s missing.
Groundhog Day is a true masterpiece. The concept as a whole is pretty basic, but very interesting at the same time. Having the same day repeat itself what seems like forever, causes a man to change. Everything stays the same, except for him and it’s because of the repetition that it happens. It’s ironic that a movie where so much of it is the same thing repeating constantly is one of the most unique movies of our time.
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