Thursday, February 2, 2012
For Your Consideration- GROUNDHOG DAY (1993)
Groundhog Day is widely accepted as a good movie. But I think it's more than that. To me, it's one of the best movies ever made. I know that I'm prone to hyperbole, but I firmly believe that if this film were to be shown to all the world leaders, we would achieve world peace within minutes. Groundhog Day is so cleaver and so sweet and can easily boast a plot that was way ahead of its time.
The story follows Phil Connors (Bill Murray), a perpetually grumpy weatherman who's forced to go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the Groundhog Day Festival. While there, something happens (and I love that it's never explained what) that forces Phil to live that day, December 2, over and over. It's a simple, interesting, fairly innovative, and very effective premise. More after the jump...
Groundhog Day is... and I know that I throw this word out a lot... brilliant. Top to bottom- writing, casting, acting, directing, and editing- it's perfect. Bill Murray is the only person that could have played the role to make it both hilarious and touching. Murray plays Phil as being charming, schlubby, charismatic and a bit of a dick. He grounds the extraordinary circumstances in this film with the motivations and conceits of an ordinary man. If he were ever deserving of an acting award, I think it should be for this film. He didn't get one, mind you. But he should have. His performance is pitch perfect, and his ultimate turn to being a good person and winning the girl is completely believable.
I started writing out a bunch of thoughts, but it ended up being a summary of the film. Don't wanna do that. So, I just wanna write about my favorite scene.
At this point in the film, Phil has done everything (and almost everyone) that his id desired, but he's realized the emptiness of a life without effect, consequence, or connection. He's stuck in this hell, he's hit rock bottom, and he literally can't leave.
He's tried to end this misery by both killing the groundhog and himself... all shown in a fun suicide montage. (Good band name?) How often do you get an attempted suicide montage in a comedy? Which brings us to my favorite scene...
Sad, lonely and weary, he sits in the diner and tells Rita (Andie McDowell), "I'm a God." It's said not in a boastful way but rather in a defeated, helpless way. He conveys the strange burden of omniscience as he tells Rita about everyone in the diner. The last part of the speech is just beautifully delivered where he tells Rita about Rita. 99% of the time, having that much inside information about someone might lead to concerns of stalking, but it's really, really poignant. And on that day, he wins the girl by being earnest... about being all-knowing.
He goes on to spend the day with Rita. And you get the sense that it's the first time that's he's just honest. It's the first time we see him makes a real, genuine connection. Which makes it the more heartbreaking when it all disappears the next morning.
It's after this part in the story that he starts to better himself which sets up a satisfying endgame.
Other Random Thoughts...
- I've always wondered how much time passed for him in that day. How long does it take for a middle aged man to become an amazing piano player? And to become a ice sculptor? How long would it take to learn and memorize everything about EVERYONE? To know, to the second, when things happen in a town? Could you imagine having to go through that?
- Except for the setting and title, the film has nothing to do with the actual Groundhog Day. I mean, I guess I could make the argument that Phil Connors saw his metaphorical shadow each time he woke up and, thus, had more of the same... Oooh, I actually like that. That sounded insightful.
- The scene where Phil and Rita dance to Ray Charles' "You Don't Know Me" was the first time I heard that song. It's my favorite Ray Charles song.
On this Groundhog Day, I highly encourage you to watch this wonderful movie over and over and over. You can currently find and stream it (legally) on crackle.com.