If you’ve not seen ‘Groundhog Day’, I highly suggest you finish reading this review, then immediately watch the movie to fully appreciate it’s greatness. If you have seen the movie, I suggest you finish reading my review, then watch it again today because it deserves another watch. Especially since today is Groundhog Day!
In this classic film we are introduced to Phil Connors (Bill Murray); a television meteorologist who is tasked with covering the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA. This is Phil’s fourth year of covering this event and he is growing tired of it, believing that an assignment such as this is below him. Phil doesn’t make his disdain for this assignment a secret and his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) are the ones forced to put up with his ego for the day while trying to get the coverage they need.
After covering the festivities, Phil and his crew are trying to return home when they are stopped by a blizzard. A blizzard that Phil predicted would miss them. They are forced to head back to Punxsutawney for the night. The only thing is, when Phil awakes to his alarm clock at 6:00am, it’s Groundhog Day all over again. Phil is apparently the only one who is aware of this deja vu like occurrence though and he is able to recall everything that happened the previous day.
It’s not known exactly how many days Phil spends in this seemingly endless loop of days, but at one point when he is the designated driver to a couple of intoxicated townsmen, it is revealed that if there were no tomorrow, there would be no long-term consequences for him. This gives Phil the idea to do whatever he wants. What Phil does with this knowledge is played out throughout the movie. Phil uses the knowledge he gains each day for less than pure intentions at first. He gets into a police chase, seduces one of the lady residents of the town who he claims to have gone to school with, and steals a bag of money from an armored truck.
Phil is attracted to Rita and he uses each day to learn new things about her in an attempt to win her over. Each time Phil learns something new, he uses that to his advantage, but ultimately each time something goes wrong. Luckily for Phil, he is stuck in this time loop known as Groundhog Day, and he gets another chance to try again. Eventually, Phil gets tired of being rejected by Rita and becomes increasingly disgruntled by his very existence. Phil steals the groundhog and a truck and in an attempt to break the never ending cycle, drives the truck into a quarry. But you guessed it, he wakes up at 6:00am on February 2nd again.
Phil tries several more times to break the cycle by killing himself. But regardless of what Phil tries, he always wakes up at 6:00am. This leads to Phil thinking he is a god. He reveals this notion to Rita over breakfast and she is hesitant to believe him, even though he knows everything about everyone in town. Rita starts to be persuaded by Phil once he begins revealing some intimate things about her that he couldn’t possibly know. Rita then suggests that she hang out with Phil for the rest of the day. Rita ends up spending the entire evening with Phil and as she’s drifting off to sleep, Phil professes his love for her.
This is the turning point in the movie, when Phil begins to love others as much as he loves himself. Phil gives all of his money to a gentleman who appears to be homeless; the same gentleman he had passed without second thought on so many occasions. Phil then takes coffee to Rita and Larry – another sign of giving that Phil had never shown before. Over the course of the next several minutes in the movie, which I surmise is actually years in Phil time, Phil learns to play the piano and sculpt ice. All the while, still loving others and giving what he can, where he can. He uses his knowledge of what’s going to happen each day to help make the lives of others better. Whether it’s saving a kid who falls out of a tree, or helping a few elderly ladies change a flat tire, Phil continues to love his neighbors.
Phil and Rita share a dance at that evening’s festivities and she wants to know how he is so loved in a community he only visits once a year. He asks her if she wants the long version or the short version; and she says to start with the short version and they’ll go from there. After the dance, the two of them go outside, where Phil showcases one of his acquired skills – he sculpts ice to resemble Rita’s face. Rita is so impressed with his skills and so caught up in the moment that when Phil tells her that he is happy and in love, she tells him that she is too. The two of them share a kiss and that, in my opinion, is when the curse of Groundhog Day was removed. After the kiss, the two of them are seen walking away. The next scene shows the alarm clock rolling over to 6:00am like it had done so many other times throughout the movie, but this time it was different. Rita was still there with Phil!
There are several reasons I love this movie. I’m a Bill Murray fan first and foremost. This movie also takes me back several years, when things just seemed easier. Another reason I enjoy this movie though is the message I get from it. It poses several questions that we could ask ourselves. What would you do if you only had one day to live? Would you use it selfishly and for your own pleasure? Or would you love others and make their lives better? Phil got stuck living February 2nd over and over again when he was living his life in a self-centered egotistical way. It wasn’t until he started truly loving others that he was able to break free and live.