Groundhog Day (1993)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #42

He’s having the day of his life…
over and over again.

Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 101 minutes
BBFC: PG
MPAA: PG

Original Release: 12 February 1993 (USA)
UK Release: 7th May 1993
First Seen: TV, c.1996

Stars
Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
Andie MacDowell (sex, lies, and videotape, Four Weddings and a Funeral)
Chris Elliott (Cabin Boy, There’s Something About Mary)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Thelma & Louise, Memento)

Director
Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Analyze This)

Screenwriters
Harold Ramis (Animal House, Ghostbusters)
Danny Rubin (S.F.W.)

Story by
Danny Rubin (Hear No Evil, Stork Day)

The Story
Dispatched to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a TV news team get stuck overnight by a snowstorm. When weatherman Phil Connors wakes up the next morning, he finds it’s Groundhog Day again — he’s stuck in a time loop which no one else is aware of, reliving the despised day over and over again. The only advantage is he might be able to use the special knowledge he gains to woo his producer.

Our Hero
Grumpy TV weatherman Phil Connors definitely doesn’t want to be covering the ridiculous Groundhog Day ceremonies, so it’s a personal hell to relive that particular day over and over, possibly for the rest of time. Equally, it might just wind up making him a better man.

Our Villain
Who knows what caused Phil’s predicament? Maybe it was the groundhog — he’s in the title, after all.

Best Supporting Character
Now, don’t you tell me you don’t remember Ned because he’d sure as heckfire remember you. Ned Ryerson. Needlenose Ned. Ned the Head. From Case Western High. Ned Ryerson, did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson, got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn’t graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson, dated Phil’s sister Mary Pat a couple times until Phil told him not to anymore? Ned Ryerson? Bing!

Memorable Quote
“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” — Phil

Memorable Scene
Fed up with his limited immortality, Phil tries to commit suicide. It doesn’t work — so he keeps trying, in new and ingenious ways. I mean, when you put it like that it kinda doesn’t sound funny…

Making of
So, how long is Phil trapped in the time loop? Director Harold Ramis said the original idea was 10,000 years, though he later said it was probably more like 10 years. Various websites have tried to work it out, because of course. Estimates range from just under 9 years to more like 34 years, in order to account for all the time Phil spends learning to play the piano, become an ice sculptor, etc. In the film itself, we see events from just 38 days.

Next time…
The creative team behind the RSC’s successful musical Matilda are working on a stage musical adaptation of Groundhog Day, including songs by Tim Minchin, which will premiere at The Old Vic later this year before opening on Broadway in March 2017.

Awards
1 BAFTA (Original Screenplay)
1 British Comedy Award (Comedy Film)
1 Saturn Award (Actress (Andie McDowell))
5 Saturn nominations (Fantasy Film, Actor (Bill Murray), Director, Writing, Costumes)
Nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation.

What the Critics Said
“While Murray’s deadpan putdowns and dry dismissals of provincial peccadilloes are the comic highlights, Groundhog Day is no supercilious rip of small-town U.S.A. Under Ramis’ even-handed, smartly tilted direction, Groundhog Day also shows the strong virtues of small-town decencies and the maturing-effect they have on the glib media-slicker.” — Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter

Score: 96%

What the Public Say
“What has always come best from Bill Murray is a kind of flat, dead-pan delivery, a manner of looking at bizarre situations and sizing them up […] Groundhog Day is right at home for Murray because it affords him at least two dozen moments like that. It is the perfect playground for his kind of humor. Yet, it is something more than that. Here he begins by playing a man who is smug and self-important and slowly transforms into a man who is happy.” — Jerry, armchaircinema

What the Philosophers Say
“perhaps the ultimate meditation on man’s struggle to give meaning to his life within the abyss of an inconsequential existence, at least as far as ’90s comedies go.” — Colin Newton, Mind Over Movies

Verdict

A Twilight Zone-esque setup gets a comedic twist in the hands of co-writer/director Harold Ramis and star Bill Murray (teaming up in a version of that configuration for the sixth time). While the film is undoubtedly a showcase for Murray’s comedic talents (which is no bad thing), alongside that it develops an endearing vein about what it means to be a good person, touching on some pretty philosophical stuff along the way. It’s also a movie about leading a repetitious life, but it isn’t repetitious itself — surely a feat all of its own.

How many #43s can there be? There can be only one.

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