Groundhog Day

Director: Harold Ramis

1993

Following on from the epicness that was my blog on The Lord of the Rings yesterday (Hobbit Day don’t you know … see what I did there?) I present you with a much more manageable blog on the subject of … you guessed it … Groundhog Day (I know the title kind of gave it away didn’t it?)

“It’s a terrific conceit (one that is never explained, which makes it even better) that first causes the scheming Phil to take advantage of the situation.” (819, Joanna Berry, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) It’s a conceit that’s been picked up by some of my favourite television shows like Life Serial in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Joss Whedon, 1997-2003), Buffy is forced to relive her day in the Magic Shop multiple times and Mystery Spot in Supernatural (Eric Kripke, 2005- ) when Sam has to watch Dean die over and over again. Both of these episodes were more exciting and entertaining than Groundhog Day was.

I do like that Bill Murray and Harold Ramis are back together again. I have never found Bill Murray all that funny before, aside from in Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984), there is only so many times you can watch the same type of performance. And more often than not he does the surly and cynical humor thing. I do wonder what it must have been like for the cast (especially) to film the same moment over and over again with the slightest tweak.

“In between, there are delicious running gags including waking up to the same banter and Sonny and Cher song (“I’ve Got You Babe”) on the radio; seeing Stephen Tobolowsky in a superb turn as irritating insurance salesman Ned Ryerson, and knowing what is going to happen before it does.” (819) The repetition of “I’ve Got You Babe” starts out funny but oh so very quickly becomes jarring and ends up setting my teeth on edge. I came to dread the clock changing to 6am because I knew Sonny and Cher would start warbling away.

The film takes a melancholy turn once the initial novelty has worn off. Phil becomes increasingly unstable as he continues to relive the same day over and over again, with his behaviour becoming ever more erratic – when he kidnaps Phil the Groundhog before his string of suicide attempts. Eventually however he uses the time productively and betters himself learning new skills like playing the piano, learning a new language or becoming an ice sculpture artist. And slowly he becomes less self-centered and more involved with the inhabitants of this small American town, going around getting to know and help people, his efforts to save the old homeless guy repeatedly are particularly endearing.

Despite the fact that Phil uses Groundhog Day to manipulate Rita and her feelings there is still something romantic about his wooing of her. He takes a lot of time and effort to get to know her and actually cares quite deeply about her. I found Phil surprisingly sappy but only really when it came to Rita. It takes Phil finding inner happiness to finally break the monotony of living Groundhog Day countless times over and Rita is a big part of that.

I really don’t agree with Berry when she says “Groundhog Day is both wonderfully clever and hysterically funny – comedy is rarely this perfect.” (819) I found myself bored more than anything by the repetitive nature of the film. And I didn’t laugh out loud once let alone 3 times which is the Kermode-an minimum for a film to be considered a comedy. I also don’t find the subject of suicide one suited to comedy – there is nothing funny about suicide. Comedy is such a subjective thing and clearly this just isn’t my sort of comedy. It must be a nightmare trying to come up with a comic film that has a wide-reaching appeal. It was an alright way to spend a dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon (which today really was!!) but I wouldn’t say it was the perfect comedy. I have watched much funnier films than Groundhog Day.

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