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It’s like Groundhog Day

August 3rd, 2008 by Editor

You know a film is a classic when its title becomes part of the language. When someone says “It’s like Groundhog Day,” you know exactly what they mean. It’s become shorthand for a situation that feels like it’s repeating itself. It’s more frustrating than dèjá vu; it’s more a feeling of being stuck in an endless loop of events that we can’t control.

Spoiler Alert!
In Groundhog Day, Phil (Bill Murray) starts the day off as a weatherman so egotistical that he actually says things like “I make the weather.” He has a God-like view of himself and his own importance, but then things change. Phil wakes up and finds that he has to repeat the day that he lived through yesterday, only to repeat it again, and again, and again, like a man stuck on a treadmill. Despite his supersized ego, Phil is not God; he has no control at all. The film leads you to wonder what you would do if you had to relive one day of your life over and over. What would you do during that day?

When the screenwriter, Danny Rubin, came up this concept, he needed his script to have a clear structure. He tried many different approaches to organize the events, but he couldn’t get the story to progress anywhere. Then he came upon Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ On Death and Dying, a famous book about the grieving process. It traces the five steps — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — that a person goes through while coping with death. Rubin used these five steps as a framework for Phil to deal with his situation.

If you watch the film with this in mind, you can see Phil move from step to step as he slips from fighting his fate towards becoming suicidal. At the end, he triumphantly arrives at acceptance and everything is resolved. The lesson that Phil learns is powerful, one that I think can be applied to our regular, non-repeating lives.

In addition to its deep philosophical message, Groundhog Day is hilarious. Murray is brilliant, offering a very subtle, nuanced performance as a self-centered jerk who becomes a real hero in the end. I love the scene where he knows everything about everyone in the diner. And while a lot of people believed Murray was robbed of the Oscar for Lost in Translation, I think his performance of Phil deserved a nod.

Murray doesn’t carry Groundhog Day alone; the rest of the cast delivers strong performances. I love the character Ned Ryerson (the insurance salesman played by Stephen Tobolowsky), the very embodiment of a person that you don’t want to see once, let alone every morning for the rest of your life.

My advice: Watch the movie. Watch it again. Pay attention to the details. And watch it again.

It’s like Groundhog Day. You know a film is a classic when its title becomes part of the language. When someone says “It’s like Groundhog Day,” you know exactly what they mean…

Jonathan

Last comment: Apr 19th 2014 6 Comments
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  • Alex says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  • Dennis says:

    I love this move and I love site. I was happy to be a part of the beta and there is really so much that you do right I’m proud that this is my most visited site on the web.

    Sorry to be a bit off topic, but people seem pretty bummed about certain shows going away lately (season 1 of Dirt comes to mind) so I figured that this conversation would be prominent on the Hulu blog — how are you going to address these concerns? I’m curious what the “stance” is as well as what we have to look forward to.

    Cheers,
    Dennis

  • Graham says:

    Hey there’s a bunch of people with cool shades dodging bullets, It’s like the matrix! Sadly not every film can be applied to daily situations as easily as this.

    Hey there’s a talking donkey, It’s like Shrek!
    Hey the world’s being over-run by
    robots/aliens/mutant-humans/bad guys
    and Will Smith is fighting them off.
    It’s like all films!

    (i-robot, MIB, MIB II, Independence day, I am legend, Bad boys, Bad boys II, Hancock, Enemy of the state? I forget the story line)

  • Adam says:

    NOW THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

    Thank you for uploading this movie, I think Bill Murray defines alot of summer movies. I only wish you guys could some how upload Kingpin, I really wanna see that movie. But this is a great movie, thanks, and here’s to hoping for more Murray!

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