There are many reasons that I love ‘Groundhog Day’, including its high repeat value. And while for many years I saw it just as a comedy with Bill Murray, during a recent viewing I realised that the film has more to it than just that.
The film’s story revolves around a self-centered and sour TV meteorologist Phil Connors (Bill Murray), news producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) from a fictional television station. They all travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual Groundhog Day. Having grown tired of this assignment, Phil grudgingly gives his report and attempts to return when a blizzard shuts down the roads and he is forced to return and stay in the town overnight. The next day Phil wakes up to find that he is reliving February 2, with no one else aware of the time loop.
The film though fictional, says a lot about life itself. Even though Phil was trapped in the same day, it is not unlike a feeling that many of us experience. The mundane nature of everyday life is such that while the date does change the next morning, the day might just remain the same. The film obviously works on many levels other than the philosophical one and is actually a very entertaining comedy with Bill Murray giving one of his best performances as Phil Connors.
I love the way Phil starts out when he realises his predicament. One of the first series of activities that he indulges in while trapped in the day are hedonistic and self-destructive including sleeping with random women and attempting multiple suicides. There are no qualms about the fact that Phil has a negative outlook on life and could not be a more unsuitable candidate for a heroic lead. Bill Murray does not cut any corners in depicting Phil as the bitter, vain man and still manages to humanise the character through a slow change seeping into him after months spent trapped in the Groundhog Day.
Phil is also surrounded by multiple characters all of who start out looking as bland but end up making a lasting impression on his life. The best encounters are obviously the ones he has with his producer Rita (MacDowell) where he tries relentlessly to seduce her but succeeds only when he makes real changes in his life. Even though the film is not much of a romance, it is the last 20 minutes of the film that are better than any romantic-comedy I have ever seen.
The film’s screenplay is by director Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, and one of the best things about it. While the film could have treaded on the path of complete insanity given the premise, it manages to be a bitter-sweet comedy with a soul.
This is one of those films that can be enjoyed by everyone and not just a niche audience based on intellect, gender or preferences. And this is why it makes for such a great watch. If you have not seen it, you are really missing out on something!