My Favorite Movies – Groundhog Day (1993)

7 Jun

By Tanner Smith

I’m sure many of us who live near Kansas City, Missouri (such as myself) wish we could relive February 2, 2020 (the day the KC Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV) again and again…because due to the pandemic, it felt like we WERE living the same day again and again!

The time-loop story angle had been used before but not to this mainstream-comedy scale. The cleverly droll and also heartfelt writing from the late Harold Ramis (who also directed the film) resulted in a screenplay that was so good that of course the Oscars had to ignore it for Best Original Screenplay.

If I may quote Roger Ebert, who gave it three stars initially but then went on to include it in his Great Movies collection, “‘Groundhog Day’ is a film that finds its note and purpose so precisely that its genius may not be immediately noticeable. It unfolds so inevitably, is so entertaining, so apparently effortless, that you have to stand back and slap yourself before you see how good it really is.”

Do I even need to go on after that?

We all know how great “Groundhog Day” is, and I certainly know it too–I first watched it as a teen and loved how creative it was, I studied it in a screenwriting workshop, and it’s yet another example of my favorite type of subgenre: the “dramedy.” There are many parts that are funny and other parts that get me right in the feels, and they all feel like they’re part of the same movie.

Bill Murray is great at playing a jerk, but his role as jerko TV weatherman Phil Conners is probably Murray’s most difficult role to date. It’s also his most accomplished, as we go from hating this guy to laughing at him to empathizing with him and then finally to feeling happy for him. He has to repeat this horribly uneventful, mundane day over and over and over AND OVER again (according to Google, Phil endures the loop for over eight years)–Murray has to sell all the various stages of coping with such a strange and aggravating phenomena, especially when there’s no one he can share it with. That makes it all the more funny when he uses this ability to seduce women. But it’s also all the more heartwarming when he realizes that when he tries to copy something that was genuinely romantic before, it just doesn’t work again.

What’s even more interesting about this role is that Phil doesn’t become a different person–but he does become a better one.

Best Murray performances in my opinion: 3) “St. Vincent,” 2) “Lost in Translation,” 1) “Groundhog Day.” (“Broken Flowers” is a good #4.)

The time-loop concept has been used in other movies since–some to very good effect, like “Source Code,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” the “Happy Death Day” movies, and especially “Palm Springs” (the best of the “Groundhog Day” influences). But there is only one “Groundhog Day.” It’s a wonderful masterpiece for both Harold Ramis and for Bill Murray.

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