Sunday, February 2, 2014
Premiered February 12, 1993.
"What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"
Local TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is assigned to travel to Punxutawney, PA to cover the annual Groundhog Day event. Phil is a generally cynical person who worships at the temple of his own narcissism and treats his co-workers like dirt.
He dreads the trip to Punxutawney, dismissing the townspeople as "hicks". His new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) is charmed by the town and the groundhog.
They leave later in the afternoon, but are turned back by a blizzard (that Phil the weatherman, failed to correctly predict). Phil, Rita and Larry (Chris Elliot), their cameraman, are forced to stay in Punxutawney for another night. When Phil wakes up the next morning, he realizes it is still Groundhog Day. So is the next day, and the day after, and every day for...a very long time.
Phil will be forced to live the same day over and over again until he gets it right.
This movie holds a special place in my heart. I was still in high school when it came out and I went to see it around my birthday with friends at the movie theater in our local shopping mall. I enjoyed it at the time, and it became a film that seemed to keep cropping up in my regular viewing.
During my grad school years, my travels brought me to northwestern England and a residential internship program in a small museum located in a tiny, but well-known village. The months of January and February in this small, rural community were devoid of the tourists common in the spring and summer months. I began to feel a strong sense of empathy with Phil's plight (not the narcissism so much, but the repetition), as at the time, I was seeing the same people in the same places over and over again during the bleakest part of the winter. (Needless to say, I am glad it wasn't actually the same day repeating, but I was very glad when spring arrived that year!) I semi-ironically bought a copy of the video while there and wound up bequeathing it to the shared house I'd stayed in as a remembrance of January and February when I moved on.
And here it is over twenty years later and I find myself watching Groundhog Day almost every year and finding new things about it to enjoy. That's quite an impressive thing and leads me to bandy about words like "modern classic" where this movie is concerned. (I am not alone in my affection for it, I might add.) This movie remains funny and poignant. Its themes of redemption and making the most out of the time you have are pretty universal and are pulled off without being cloying or feeling dated. Not many romantic comedies can lay claim to pretty heavy metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings. And none of it would work without cracking good performances from Bill Murray and a very talented supporting cast.
On a side note, Groundhog Day was not actually filmed in Punxsutawney, PA -- the filming took place in Woodstock, IL -- but the Groundhog Festival featuring the real Punxsutawney Phil takes place every year at Gobbler's Knob in PA. You can read all about Phil the groundhog and his activities here: www.groundhog.org.
If you have never seen Groundhog Day, or if it is an old favorite, it's well worth re-visiting on a cold winter evening (or anytime, really).
J.A. Morris says:
I share my co-blogger's admiration for this movie. I saw it in the theater back in '93 and I've been a big fan ever since. It's a great tale of redemption and unlike many of those, it doesn't feel contrived at all. Phil is a loathsome human being who becomes a better person due to his time in purgatory.
It's something I watch every Groundhog Day (hey, there aren't many Groundhog Day specials or movies!) just like I watch various Christmas movies in December. It still makes me laugh and think more than two decades after its release, and probably always will.
J.A. Morris' rating: