Punxsutawney Phil Piles on Bill's Pain
I doubt I am alone when saying that "Groundhog Day" is my personal Groundhog Movie, a movie I could watch every single day without growing tired of the story, jokes and Bill Murray's sardonic weatherman. There is very little which is wrong with "Groundhog Day", from the clever storyline, the subtle message, the sarcasm, wit and comedy as well as the directing. In fact watching "Groundhog Day" even now it holds up against more modern comedies making it one of those movies which is entering the realms of a classic comedy.
Sent up to Punxsutawney to cover the annual 2nd February Groundhog Day celebrations, sarcastic TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray - Ghostbusters II) is not overly happy and he lets his cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott - Scary Movie 2) and enthusiastic producer Rita (Andie MacDowell - St. Elmo's Fire) know of his disdain for the twee nonsense which he is being forced to cover. Having done his report Phil and his team start to make their way back to the city but are forced to stay another day in Punxsutawney when a blizzard strikes. But another day turns into the same day when Phil wakes up and it's the 2nd February again and he is the only one who seems to be confused by it being the same day again. As this reoccurring day continues Phil starts to believe that he will be permanently stuck living Groundhog Hell, forced to live out the same day over and over again in Punxsutawney.
There is something plainly ingenious about the storyline to "Groundhog Day" as we watch Phil having to live the same day over and over again. It throws up a plethora of comedic possibilities as he goes through the emotions of initial despair of living the same hellish day again and again. But that despair is wiped away when he realises the opportunities that present themselves and the fact that he can do what ever he likes because he knows when he wakes up tomorrow yesterday will not have existed or at least for everyone but him. And if that wasn't enough we then get more feelings as boredom strikes before finally a revelation about life.
All of which is done with such a comedic flare, from the sarcastic comments of Phil towards all those around him, through to his unscrupulous attempts to capitalize on his misfortune and bed various women by each day learning a bit more about them. It's all funny but so are some of the most insignificant moments such as the constant stepping in a puddle as his life is repeated and the various daily routines of bumping in to the same people
But there is also a message in "Groundhog Day" a message about living for the day because there maybe no tomorrow. But not just living for yourself, but making a difference in the lives of others. It's not a message forced down your throat, it's just an obvious, plain to see message as we watch the self centred Phil turn into someone who is a little nicer.
What is surprising is that with "Groundhog Day" we have a movie by its sheer nature is going to be repetitive and in lesser hands it could have turned into a bore. But with director Harold Ramis on killer form the repetitive nature never raises its ugly head. It's the clever manipulation of a scene, a slight change in mannerisms or dialogue from one day to the next makes each time a pleasure to watch as it will throw up a new joke which will make you smile.
And whilst Harold Ramis must take a lot of praise so must Billy Murray as sardonic weatherman Phil Connors. Murray is just perfect for the role, delivering line after line of dead pan sarcasm but also with a restrained visual ness which is in no other way brilliant. Just a slight change in his look followed by some clever dialogue and Billy Murray scores a laugh with pretty much every joke. Even when Phil is despairing at his misfortune the laughs still roll despite an almost darker sense of comedy.
In fact Bill Murray is on such good form in "Groundhog Day" that he brings out the best in his co-stars in particular Andie MacDowell who plays Rita his lovely, glass half full producer. Now I am not being nasty but MacDowell seems to have been cast because she is gorgeous, she does have this up beat persona and so is perfect as an enthusiastic producer who loves all the tweeness of Punxsutawney. Yet Murray brings out a real ability for sweet comedy out of MacDowell and she gets some of the more funny yet tender moments.
What is amusing is that "Groundhog Day" is such a captivating movie that it makes you forget certain things. We never get an explanation as to how comes Phil is living in a reoccurring nightmare, although we can presume it is to teach him some sort of lesson about living life for the right reasons. And because of the clever editing and writing we have no idea of how long Phil suffers living the same day, is it a few weeks, months, years the chances are it's years having spent time learning all about different women, playing the piano and habits of those who live in Punxsutawney but it just flies right over your head as you don't notice that time must be flying by.
What this all boils down to is that "Groundhog Day" is one of those rare comedies which never grows dull, it's a classic. It's funny, ingenious, sweet as well as caustic and throws in an impressive message in amidst all the comedy. There are few comedies which can still make you laugh when you known them inside out but "Groundhog Day" is one of those few thanks to the directing of Harold Ramis and the brilliance of Bill Murray.