#212: Groundhog Day (1993)

When and how did I watch this?

October 11th, 2015, on a friend’s Plex account.

Had I seen this film already?

Ironically, I’ve seen it several times — perhaps a hundred. It’s easy and fun, and it kinda gets stuck in the DVD player.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

It has moments of whimsy, but overall it’s a fantastic film. Murray ranges from screwball to dead serious, while the story itself is at first absurd, but gradually ascends (or descends, depending on how one might perceive it) into behavioral and philosophical territory.  I’ve actually used this film for Christian illustrations in the past.

What do I know about it now?

Being extra familiar with the content, I was forced to enter hyper analysis mode. I believed that Phil was stuck on February 2nd for about six months, but I’ve read content that he was perhaps there for 20 to 30 years.  This sounds way more plausible; Phil becomes a master pianist, master ice sculptor, chiropractor, card thrower, knows everything about pretty much everyone in the town, knows the timing of several specific events that occur that day (armor drops quarters, kid falls from tree, etc), and has developed a deep, passionate love for Rita, who he attempts to woo by various means.  Despite having “endless” time each day to sharpen up these skills, it would still take several years for some of these things to develop.

I discovered he has limitations: he does not age, and does not suffer physical consequences for his actions, which means he also cannot enhance himself physically. The director seemed to recognize this. Phil never develops other than mentally.

He goes to Gobbler’s Knob every day.  I figured he does so because he wants to see Rita every time, and because he has nowhere else to go.

Finally, the film follows the classical structure of a comedy rather than the American ha-ha version. We see him progress through a series of behavioral stages: selfishness, denial, shock, indifference, desperation, depression, and a sort of epiphany at the end.

What are some themes in the film?

Destiny and happenstance, psychoanalysis, time, apathy, lust vs. love, hope

Did this affect me personally?

More so than usual because I looked so hard into it.

Why is this ranked #212?

The movie is hilarious, but it dives deeper than any film like it.  It’s ranked here, however, because it’s a cult classic, but it probably gets nudged up by closet philosophers like myself.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She loves this movie.

Would I watch it again?

And again, and again…

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Of course.  And likewise, watch it more than once.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

I think the answer is somewhat subjective.  It is by no means a polished and flawless film, nor is it filled with incredible acting, cinematography, and the like.  But the film transcends the typical comedy, and introduces us to Bill Murray the actor (who would eventually win an Oscar for a less comedic film ten years later) rather than Murray the goof-off.  Groundhog Day is on this particular list because many people have seen it and find the film both hilarious and fascinating, but it deserves more recognition for being — yes — great.

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