GROUNDHOG DAY

It’s crunch time for 2019, and I do fully intend to catch up on fivethreeninety before the year is out. I’m working on a backlog of posts for my films I should have seen, and the entry for November 24th is Groundhog Day.

Directed by Harold Ramis, and written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day is an early nineties classic about a weatherman, played by the great Bill Murray, who gets stuck in a loop repeating the same day over and over again.

The film quickly became very iconic, to the point that ‘Groundhog Day‘ is a recognisable term for deja vu, and in 2006, the film was even added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In 2016 it was even made into a stage musical, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin.

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The film is a clever concept, that utilises a known but mostly uncelebrated day in America, which was a very smart marketing strategy as it can now be screened annually.

I feel like Groundhog Day doesn’t necessarily have a consistent plot line, and is instead more like a series of sketches based in the same concept. That’s not a bad thing – it means for a fun watch, though I don’t think it makes for stellar filmmaking.

I think directing wise, it’s not anything huge. The main successful elements of this film is it’s concept, it’s script and it’s leading actor; and the film does rely on that and only really that. Harold Ramis both wrote and directed it, and I think if he’d handed it over to someone else it could have been really elevated up to even another layer. But it’s odd, because it’s genuinely such a good film regardless – it doesn’t need to any greater cinematically.

Bill Murray as Phil Connors is in his element, as you’d well expect from such a talent. He’s the star of the show, and is somehow simultaneously hilarious whilst gaining a lot of your sympathy. As a character he seems very truly unhappy at times (Murray was going through some personal events at the time of shooting, that even led him to fall out with Ramis), which is something I felt I could really pick up on but does really work for the character of Phil.

Andie MacDowell as Rita Hanson is a really wonderful counterpart to Phil. She’s optimistic where he is pessimistic, and lifts every scene. Rita is very charming, though I don’t feel like her character has much to her at all. At the end of the film, we know a lot about her but mostly through Phil’s eyes – we don’t see it for ourselves. I think as we already know and love established actor MacDowell, it wouldn’t be nearly as good with anyone else in the role.

There’s also supporting roles filled by Chris Elliott as Larry the cameraman, and Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned Ryerson, a recurring character who Phil meets every morning.

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I did find it interesting that though on the whole clearly Phil begins to redeem himself and do good by the end of the film, there is never a real any acknowledgment that the cycle ends due to him being good. That’s just my assumption, I don’t even know if that is why it ends – it’s not made clear. Though it’s a little unsatisfying, I respect that a film doesn’t have to answer everything for us.

This is a very fun film, though it’s not perfect. It feels quite real because of it not really complying to what I consider the normal film structure, and just lets you enjoy the ride along the way. It is understandably a classic, that is well worth the viewing. Or maybe even repeated viewings.

(last comment – how funny would it be if I posted this exact same review tomorrow?)

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