IMDb Top 250: #216 – Groundhog Day (1993)

Bill Murray in groundhog day
Image from the Independent

Groundhog Day, originally released in 1993, follows Phil (Bill Murray) as he is forced to repeat the same day over and over again. Initially caught in a blizzard during a report on a groundhog that will help predict the weather, Phil quickly learns that he has to live the same day in a small town over and over.

Initially, Groundhog Day shows the perks that can happen when one is bound by no laws, and has the chance for a soft reset every time. This ranges can from robbing a truck delivering money, indulging in pastries, and pretty much any other vice one can imagine. Phil even uses his repetitive day to learn about an attractive girl in the town, and then upon a fresh start, pretends they’re old friends and quickly charms her into bed. In this way, Phil realises that he has a gift to do whatever he wants. Until it becomes a curse.

Groundhog Day is darkly funny. At the beginning Phil is far from a likeable character. One who has distain for the small town that he has to go to for a day, and Murray perfectly captures the emotions of a man who is confined in something that he enjoys. The highlights include the mundane things that happen in a day that gradually become irritants as they get repeated again and again. Old friends that try to say hello get punched, skills get acquired, and at some point Phil even exemplifies the potential while gorging on pastries, knowing he can never put on weight, by proclaiming that he is a god.

Groundhog Day excels because while it’s a hilarious and light hearted film, it does show the darker elements of what happens when a person can go unpunished. Phil takes all kind of actions that lead to the harm of others. It’s hard to forget that off screen, in those hundreds or thousands of days that were not caught in the loop, many crimes and atrocities that were committed due to Phil’s boredom would have had severe consequences. There are more temptations in a world without punishment than getting the answers right on game shows. Phil makes sure to indulge in all of them, though. So even if you fancy having the situation he does, you’ll have felt you lived through it. One of the true testaments to Groundhog Day‘s success is the way that it captures the repetitive time cycle, while still being a normal movie length.

Ultimately, though, it is a tale that revolves around love and redemption. After driving off a cliff and seducing a classmate, Phil does become aware that there is a joy to be found in helping those around him, even if his actions only last for a day. If he still sees himself as a god, he understands that it’s helpful to be there to make a difference to people, and see all the different scenarios and possibilities from his actions. This is understandable, as the darkest person would crave any kind of variety from this time spent in limbo. Phil represents the best and worst of us. To be honest, that’s part of his appeal. Haven’t we all just wanted to excessively indulge in simple pleasures? Whether we would be driving on the wrong side of the tracks or learning piano, there is something about the freedom of time that is as liberating as it is terrifying.

Ultimately, Phil decides to improve himself, and his new skills make him popular among the town. By the end of the movie he has become the perfect man, and his romantic interest pays off. Across the movie come increasing amounts of heart and soul. Whether it’s the cheer at seeing an alarm clock that repeatedly goes off at the same time, every day, be smashed, or whether you’re rooting for the guy to get the girl.

The movie might appeal to those that feel they’re trapped in a rut, and has been remembered as a classic long since it’s release. Fans celebrate Groundhog Day once a year, and recently it’s been shown on TV for a whole day to commemorate the day that Bill Murray got trapped in time. Even the title itself has entered the public lexicon for meaning the same mundane things happening on different days. It’s a classic for a number of reasons. Whether you have an interest in a genuinely funny film, or the underlying themes that keep it being clever, it’s well worth your time.



Note: the IMDb Top 250 Cultured Vultures are using is based on the standings from the 16th of November. Inconsistencies may apply.

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