Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is an egotistical, snarky weatherman in Pittsburgh who dreams of the big time when he’s sent for the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney. While there on assignment, he and his crew, cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) and new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), are stranded for another night due to a blizzard that moves in before they can leave. The next morning Phil discovers it’s once again February 2nd, a day which he is then forced to relive over and over again.
I adore this movie and decided to rewatch it Saturday night in celebration of Groundhog Day (yay for an early spring!). I’ve seen so many television shows and movies play with the idea of reliving the same day over and over again, but none of them come close to perfecting it the way Groundhog Day does. While the script avoids exploring the darker side of ‘what if there was no tomorrow’, it certainly touches on the emotions that might overwhelm someone stuck in such a predicament the way Phil Connors is. From disbelief to terror to glee to despair and finally acceptance, Murray plays Phil’s rollercoaster of emotions to perfection. Phil is a narcissist, but even at his worst, you still find yourself rooting for the guy as he begins to discover what it means to actively care for other people and put their needs above his own.
At the heart of the story is Phil’s relationship with Rita, his new producer. It’s quite obvious that Rita is far too good for Phil. Optimistic, kind and probably a bit naive, she’s patient with Phil and rarely seems overly bothered with his ‘prima donna’ behavior. That begins to change when Phil decides to act on his attraction to her, manipulating her as he takes his knowledge of her into each February 2nd in order to win her over. This is quite obviously problematic behavior, as we’ve already seen Phil do the same, and succeed, with Nancy Taylor (Marita Geraghty), a local woman he happens to see in a diner. But despite attempt after attempt after attempt, Rita never falls completely for Phil’s charms, as his transparency becomes quite clear by the end of each evening. When Phil spends one day convincing Rita of this rather impossible predicament, Rita points out that perhaps reliving the same day isn’t really a curse… as it just depends on how he looks at it. This seems to trigger something different inside of Phil, and he finally begins using his situation productively. Taking piano lessons, helping a kid falling from a tree, attempting to keep a homeless man alive… Phil begins living for others, as well as himself, and it certainly changes him in the eyes of the locals, and to Rita.
Groundhog Day is original, clever and fun with plenty of quotable moments. I’m not a huge fan of MacDowell, I will admit. I find her acting to be rather wooden, and I think she was the weak link of an otherwise great film. She does manage to keep up with Murray, who really owns this film all on his own, but I think the romantic aspect of the movie would have been so much better with a different actress. That being said, Groundhog Day certainly asks a fascinating question, especially as an adult… what would you do if you were forced to relive the same day over and over, maybe for eternity? Rewatching this movie also made me mourn Harold Ramis’s passing all over again. He was such a genuine, talented filmmaker and actor, and he is certainly missed. Groundhog Day remains a classic, and a must-watch anytime, but certainly during the month of February.