How do you POSSIBLY recommend a movie you have an insane and biased obsession with? Not just that, but it stars a comedic icon that is worth watching even in terrible movies! AND the movie shares a title and date of your birthday? Thus, just a small sliver of my dilemma in recommending and digging deeper into Harold Ramis’ 1993 Comedy, Groundhog Day.
Starring the always funny and incredibly popular Bill Murray as egotistical and self-absorbed Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors, Groundhog Day takes us on a journey to the home of Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous weather-predicting groundhog from the small Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney. Phil travels there with cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) and producer Rita (Andie MacDowell)to cover the annual event. Reluctant at covering the event for the fourth year in a row, Phil is cynical about the town, his co-workers, and pretty much everything that has nothing to do with his life and his ambitions. After a snowstorm, that he predicted wouldn’t happen, keeps him from leaving Punxsutawney and sticking around for another night, his life takes a strange turn the “next” morning. He awakes to find that he re-living the same day, Groundhog’s Day, over and over again. To quote Phil Connors, “It’s always February 2nd and there is nothing I can do about it.”
Phil’s plight and the story that follows is some of the best writing, comedic or dramatic, that has ever been made. Groundhog Day is a unique, funny, witty, and heartfelt movie with some surprising pathos and thematic depth. What makes the themes and motifs in the movie so palatable is the impeccable and hysterical performance of Bill Murray and the cast of offbeat characters of the town of Punxsutawney. Everyone is at their best, from Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned Ryerson (BING!) to Gus and Ralph, Phil’s drinking buddies at the bowling alley. Chris Elliot also has some great comedic moments that usually involve his lack of skills with the ladies or quips about Phil’s ego. Andie MacDowell is also just the right amount of disgusted and intrigued by Phil, and she is great as Phil’s love interest and moral compass.
In all honesty, it feels kind of silly to talk about a movie like you’ve never seen it when I have seen it so many times and there is so much to talk about. Groundhog Day almost feels like a spiritual predecessor to a movie like The Matrix. Pretty much every religion has laid claim, like The Matrix, to this movie being about some aspect of their faith. And honestly, they are probably right. In fact, in a recent article I was reading from Catholic Theologian Michael P. Foley, he mentions from a 2003 New York Times film and faith series, “The curators [at the New York Times], polling ‘critics in the literary, religious and film worlds,’ found that [Groundhog Day} “came up so many times that there was actually a squabble over who would write about it in the retrospective’s catalog.”
So, instead of try and touch on the multiple things that came up in this film, I am going to commend the previously mentioned article by Michael P. Foley for further reading after you finish the movie on Netflix. Enjoy the movie and then dig in. Maybe we’ll do a podcast or an extended look at this movie in the future.