Guest Post: James Loves Groundhog Day
Posted on September 21, 2015
It’s been a while since I featured a guest post here on the blog, but when James from Everyone Loves Movies got in touch about his favourite film Groundhog Day I decided it was about time! When I first began this series in 2014 it was with the aim of exploring some of the reasons why we love our favourite films. You can find all of the posts in the series here.
It’s been more than twenty years since Groundhog Day hit the big screen in 1993 and Harold Ramis’ film about a man forced to live the same day over and over again is now considered a classic. So, without further ado, over to James and the reasons this comedy tops his list of favourite movies.
by James at
Everyone Loves Movies
It’s only fitting that the movie I can watch endlessly and talk about again and again is Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day. I love stylised techno scores, luscious cinematography and breath-taking performances from across cinema’s history, but it’s the simple yet maddening world of Bill Murray’s Phil Connors that I can honestly opt for any day of the week, at any time, and enjoy from start to finish.
Groundhog Day is a film that I always remember loving. It’s one of those ‘oh look, it’s on’ movies that surfaces when flicking through TV channels. With a love of old school Doctor Who fuelling my time-travel obsession, Groundhog Day was perfect. The changes that Phil Connors goes through in a single day of his life, repeated time and again, range from subtle to titanic. He wakes up mad, disappointed, angry, lovesick, joyous and a whole range of other emotions, but each is a catalyst to make that particular day different, despite it structurally being the same.
Slowly, after years of re-watching it, I realised what struck such a chord with me. Groundhog Day is a comedy like no other. Its sense of humour is balanced with massive laughs that can’t be reduced to catchphrases. Many gags are dependent on comparing Phil’s actions to those on his first go-around, treating the opening fifteen minutes as a primer to make everything else stick. Reliving a single day with a growing amount of knowledge is a device ripe for comedic hijinks, but Groundhog Day doesn’t stop there. We see Phil gaining skills, as single-day lessons repeatedly hone his talents. One of the film’s great strengths is its use of failure.
Phil wants to date Rita (Andie MacDowell), so naturally he’s going to learn everything about her so he can craft the perfect date. But it doesn’t work. Repeatedly, it doesn’t work because no matter how much Phil wants to control their time together, he just isn’t the kind of man Rita can enjoy. It’s only when Phil stops manipulating everything and finally grows into a generous human being that the two end up together. I simply adore the massive journey Phil Connors goes through. Has there been any comedy movie that so delicately uses death both tragically and comically? Phil breaks down and feels lost, yet no matter what he does to end it all, he just wakes up the next day.
“Groundhog Day is a comedy like no other. Its sense of humour is balanced with massive laughs that can’t be reduced to catchphrases.”
Change is at the heart of any great story, and change courses through Groundhog Day. The Phil we see at the start, belittling his co-workers, is not the Phil that robs the local bank, nor the Phil pining for Rita, nor the Phil driven to the madness of capturing Punxatowney Phil the groundhog himself. But there’s also a lesson to be learned from his efforts to save a homeless man which are all in vein. Groundhog Day’s repetitive cycle bring many changes, but not everything is possible. Phil seeing the continued loss of the old man brings him back down to earth and kick-starts his final day so we can finally see Phil at his best: enjoying life, making people happy and at last being content.
Nothing here is ground-breaking. I like many individual pieces of other films a lot more than their counterparts in Groundhog Day, but for me, nothing quite fits the complete picture the film creates. It’s wild and humbling, silly and severe and more than any film I watch, fun all the way through.
Thank you to James for sharing this post with us. Make sure you check out his excellent blog at Everyone Loves Movies.
Images: © Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.