Classic Review: Groundhog Day

Stars: ★★★★

Summary:  A film that transcends its genre with a brilliant exploration of its premise.

Review: What if you had to relive the most boring, frustratingly stupid day of your life over and over again, with no hope of escape?  It’s a bloody clever little premise for a movie, isn’t it?  And, in all sincerity, thank God that it was translated well into the legendary ‘Groundhog Day’.  The movie pushes every successful romantic dramedy button correctly.  What makes the genre so popular in the first place is that, unlike the more escapistic fantasies that dominate the American box office, the films try to provide extensive touchstones for the life of the typical audience.  Because of this, a romantic dramedy is never a film out of time and place.  An ’80s film of this type is quite different from one in the ’10s.  ‘Groundhog Day’ marries this “average American life” conceit with a fantasy concept too good to pass up, because of the inherent conflict and the familiar nightmare of mediocrity that afflicts so many of us at many points in our lives.  With this addition, ‘Groundhog Day’ becomes more universal, a classic that transcends time and place.  Romance, laughs and self-discovery are common to the genre; the interweaving of some serious religion and philosophy is rare indeed.

At the outset, Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, represents us at the moment before a moral revelation, when we are blissfully ignorant and arrogant.  Even after going into the time loop, he stubbornly refuses to recognize what kind of person he is, seeking every wrong choice possible in each go through The Day.  When his attempt at therapeutic hedonism fails, he falls into despair and experiences the sort of inevitable breakdown every self-absorbed person has eventually; suicidal self-loathing.  But Phil can’t die, and whatever sticky situation he finds himself in at the end of the day is wiped clean when he wakes up again.  Eventually he realizes that he just wasn’t trying the right kind of crucifixion.  The only way for Phil to exist is in selfless, generous, joyful living.

I don’t really think of ‘Groundhog Day’ as a comedy, even though it contains great comedic elements.  It’s not a film I watch very often, simply because it’s too good, like a rich Chocolate cake that is best consumed in a small dose.  There’s something surreal about it.

‘Groundhog Day’ is a great film.

Buy It From Amazon: Groundhog Day (15th Anniversary Special Edition) [Blu-ray]