Sometimes life becomes so monotonous and routine that every day starts to feel like “Groundhog Day.” The fact that people even refer to their lives that way on occasion, or use the term to describe something unpleasant that repeats, shows how much of an impact this movie has on people who watch it. Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day isn’t just a simple comedy, it’s a question of life and how we’re choosing to live it.
Groundhog Day is about a cynical weatherman named Phil (Bill Murray), who is frustrated at the fact that he has to cover the Groundhog Day story in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Along with his co-workers Rita (Andie MacDowell) and Larry (Chris Elliot), he reluctantly gives the report of the festivities and then is eager to hit the road to get back to Pittsburgh. However, a blizzard forces them to stay another night. He wakes up to find that he is reliving Groundhog Day all over again and is stuck in a time loop. After a while, Phil decides he’s going to live recklessly since nothing he does will have long term consequences and anything that happens will be reset the next day. So Phil goes on a rampage–stealing money, getting thrown in jail, seducing women, trying eagerly to get close to Rita–all to no avail. Eventually, he becomes desperate in trying to end the loop. He steals the groundhog and drives it and himself off of a cliff, only to wake up again on Groundhog Day. He commits suicide multiple times but nothing works. Eventually, with the influence of Rita, he decides he’s going to use his time wisely to improve himself and help the people of the town in whatever ways he can. When he uses his situation to get to know people, make friends, and save lives, he is eventually able to break the time loop.
It’s an endearing story, both comedic and philosophic. It’s really a legacy film left behind by the late Harold Ramis. I saw this movie a thousand times when I was just a kid and every year I watch it at least once. Bill Murray is great as usual. His character gradually goes from one extreme personality to another–arrogant and offensive to charming and likable–and he pulls it off so well. You aren’t even aware of how many days actually pass, but it has to be a while since the transition isn’t as abrupt as you would think. Little by little, Murray’s character picks up small things here and there and expands on them. He gets to really know Rita, he acquires skills that would take a long time to perfect, like music and language. You really don’t even realize he’s probably stuck in this loop for years. Yet, the story moves steadily.
It seems odd when Phil wakes up every day to the same song, with the same things happening in the same order. But, in fact, it’s not really that odd at all. How many of us wake up at the same time every day, and do the same things, go to the same job, come home at the same time, rinse and repeat? It’s sad, really, but that’s what everyday life is for a lot of people. Many people find themselves in a rut. You can only really start to live when you change yourself by beginning to take chances, using the time you have wisely, and making an effort to take the time to notice and enjoy the little things that you’d normally overlook. That’s what this movie has taught me. Living a full life is also about what you can offer the world and other people. The connections people make with those around them make the routine of everyday life a little bit more bearable.
Groundhog Day is a clever, funny, and well-written story. I honestly think that everyone needs to watch it at least once in their lifetime.