Thursday, February 13, 2014

#1,277. Groundhog Day (1993)

Directed By: Harold Ramis

Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott

Tag line: "He's having the worst day of his life... over, and over..."

Trivia: Since this film's release, both Bill Murray and Harold Ramis have been honorary grand marshals for the Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney, PA

If I were to compile a list of Bill Murray’s best movies, Groundhog Day would be right near the top of it. Directed by Harold Ramis, this 1993 comedy / fantasy has Murray starring as Phil, an arrogant, self-centered TV weatherman who’s been sent to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the Groundhog Day festivities, which occur every year on Feb 2nd. Clearly, Phil believes this assignment is beneath his talents, and to make matters worse, a freak snowstorm rolls in, forcing him and his pretty producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell) to spend the night in Punxsutawney. Yet as bad as this day has been, things are about to get a whole lot messier for Phil, because when he wakes up, believing it’s the next morning, he discovers that it’s Groundhog Day once again! Trapped in some sort of time vortex, Phil finds himself continually re-living Groundhog Day, repeating the same experiences, meeting the same people over and over again. He tries everything he can to break the cycle (including suicide), but to no avail. Convinced he’ll spend eternity in Punxsutawney on Feb. 2nd, Phil begins to despair. But is fate actually giving him a chance to become a better person, making him re-live Groundhog Day until he finally gets it right?

A film with a premise as fascinating as Groundhog Day invites the audience to ask themselves, “What would I do if I were living the same day over and over again?” Personally, if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably handle it in much the same way as Murray’s character. At first, Phil tries to make the best of it. Seeing an opportunity, he approaches a pretty local girl (Marita Geraghty), asking her things like her name, what high school she went to, and who her 12th grade English teacher was. The next time he runs into her, she has no memory of this exchange, allowing Phil to use what he’s learned to pretend to be a former classmate, convincing the girl they’ve known each other for years. Before long, he’s lured her into bed. One of my favorite scenes has Phil walking off with several bags of money he’s just stolen from the back of an armored truck, doing so in the split second the guards are looking the other way (obviously, he’s been observing them for a while, allowing him to time his theft perfectly). Phil does eventually put his selfish nature aside to start helping others; another fun sequence has him rushing around town, rescuing a boy who’s fallen out of a tree and performing the Heimlich maneuver to save Buster (Brian Doyle-Murray) when he’s choking on his dinner in a fancy restaurant.

With Groundhog Day, Murray delivers one hell of a great performance, flawlessly conveying the emotional ups and downs that would go hand-in-hand with such a bizarre chain of events. I can’t think of another actor who could’ve pulled it off as well, going from smug and sarcastic early on to charming as the movie winds down. As good as he was in Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, and Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day features Bill Murray at his absolute comedic best.


Geronimo Bosch said...

Nice review. You've really nailed its charms. Bill Murray is key to its rewatchability. The premise of the movie really suits his exasperated schtick. You get the feeling that without him it would have become a real cheese-fest. But, we both know if it were you stuck in that scenario, you'd finally get the chance to watch all those movies you'd been meaning to watch all those years!

Keep up the good work Mr. Movie Challenge...

Bernie Dowling said...

Ramis and Murray did not talk to each other for 20 years after the movie. Apparently Murray was a real pain in the bum. Life imitating art?