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Punxsutawney Phil
by Asa Butcher
2007-02-03 10:32:37
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Groundhog Day
Directed by Harold Ramis
Columbia Pictures Corporation, 1993
“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” enquires Bill Murray’s character of one of the town’s residents. “That about sums it up for me,” comes the reply. For some, the idea of reliving the same day over and over is reality, yet in the creative hands of director Harold Ramis it becomes the perfect romantic comedy.

For those unaware of the plot of Groundhog Day, starring Murray and the beautiful Andie MacDowell, allow me to briefly explain. Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric weatherman, sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day festival for the fourth time, but he hates the assignment. However, when he awakes the next morning he discovers he has to relive the day ad infinitum with no explanation for this.

In the DVD commentary Ramis estimates that Phil Connors experiences the same day for about ten years, which allows the character to undergo a range of experiences ranging from self-discovery to self-mutilation. The idea of the film’s plot constantly repeating sounds like a horrific idea, yet it works beautifully well teaching many lessons of life on the way. I have no idea how many times my version of the film has been played, although the total amount of time must be close to the ten years Connors undergoes.

I just adore this movie for so many reasons…Andie MacDowell being number one. My wife hates her, probably because I like her, but she has a sweetness and purity (MacDowell, not my wife) that injects an extra magic into her scenes with Murray. Her inspired groundhog expression, her patience, humour and reactions to Connor’s attempts to inspire her love in just one day capture my imagination every time – I’ll have to be careful or I may abandon the review just to watch the film again!

Despite an initial cool reception upon its release, Groundhog Day has grown into a favourite regularly appearing upon Top 100 lists, plus tops my own all-time best movies. Explaining why is so tough when it means having to describe the host of feelings that surge through my mind, body and soul upon every viewing. The movie inspires you to live each day to the fullest, to stop and notice the nuances of our surroundings, and that life can be so fulfilling in the right frame of mind.

Groundhog Day takes you on a journey to the darker side of the human character as Phil Connors snaps and results in countless suicide attempts that give you a brief insight into how the suicidal may actually feel (seemingly) reliving the same day repeatedly with no end in sight. As Phil says in the movie, “I've been stabbed, shocked, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned,” although he doesn’t mention being hit by a lorry, driving off a cliff, jumping to his death and a few others disturbing moments, especially in a romantic comedy.

Finally Phil has an epiphany and discovers the fruits of helping his fellow man, such as the old homeless man on the verge of death whom he ignored for a great deal of time. This is the third and best part of the movie, following on from Phil the Egotist and Phil the Suicidal, Phil the Humanitarian is a joy to watch because you understand the path of discovery he has been forced to walk. Actually, there is a religious undertone running through the movie, but nothing heavy-handed to put you off.

Reviewing a movie that I truly love is a dangerous idea, since I could end up producing a thesis rather than a few hundred words encouraging you to watch it again this weekend. Murray is superb and puts in his best comedic performance since Ghostbusters (probably number three on my favourites list), MacDowell you know already, Chris Elliott as Larry is perfectly sleazy, Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned Ryerson…you know:

“Ned... Ryerson. "Needlenose Ned"? "Ned the Head"? C'mon, buddy. Case Western High. I did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing. Ned Ryerson, got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn't graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson, I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple of times until you told me not to anymore? Well?”

Oh, you remember! As for the rest of the cast and crew just check out their work tonight and compare it to your own life: it may just inspire a change.

Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day… Happy Groundhog Day!

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Sand2007-02-04 21:58:17
Groundhog Day is one of the few movies exploring the fifth dimension where a character slides from one parallel universe to another.

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