Friday, February 2, 2007

Groundhog Day

I just finished watching Groundhog Day, again, something I do every February 2nd.

I expect to do it every February 2nd for the rest of my life.

I suspect I am not the only one.

For the uninitiated, here's the basic plot........The protagonist Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a self-centered, unhappy, sarcastic, egotistical TV weatherman. He goes to Puxatawney, PA, to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities. He finds his TV crew, and the small town activities, beneath him. A possible exception is his producer Rita (Andie McDowell), who he is interested in only on the superficial level his flawed personality will allow. After an initial long, tedious day, a snow storm forces him to stay overnight in Puxatawny.

When he wakes up the next morning, its February 2nd again, he’s still in Puxatawny, and the same day is starting over. At first he doesn’t believe it, and thinks he is going insane. As the day progresses he encounters all the same people and situations he encountered before. He handles each slightly different from the day before, and manages to get through the day. This happens to him over and over, to the point where he knows who he is going to encounter, and realizes that his knowledge is cumulative, and each day he knows more about THIS day, and the people in it, than the day before.

When he first realizes that he is going to keep waking up in the same day, he does selfish and outrageous things, like seducing a woman using information he learned about her “the day before”. In bits and pieces, the film shows you how he pursues his interests. After awhile he begins to despair over his situation, and each day when he commits suicide (in many different ways) no matter what, he awakens each day and its still Feb 2 in Puxatawny.

Eventually he turns his attention to Rita. She is such a genuine, beautiful person, he wants desperately to develop a real relationship with her, but he has no idea how to do it. Each day he learns more and more about her, and each day we see him learning not just about her, but FROM her. We begin to sense that if he could get the day right, if he could know enough, if he could genuinely change, that his life could go on past Groundhog Day.

There is a point in the movie where he changes, and starts to live his day(s) differently. When we are shown this, it is never tedious, its downright ingenius. At one point he decides to learn to play the piano, because Rita tells him that her perfect man would play an instrument. He takes a beginning piano lesson, and a few scenes later, when he plays expertly, you realize he must have lived that day hundreds of times to learn to play that way (I'm dense, so I didn't realize this until I'd seen the movie 3 times). He also starts doing helpful deeds for people all over town, knowing everything that's going to happen, and you see that his desire to do these things is coming from within.

At this point, he continues to pursue his one day relationship with Rita, starting from scratch each day, and we see he is starting to do it "right". OK, it's a movie, what do you think happens? When he goes to sleep after what sure feels like a perfect day, he wakes up the next morning and its February 3rd, Rita is with him, and he is ready to move on, a changed person..........

At its core, Groundhog Day is about the opportunities in each and every day. We can live the same day over and over, or we can make each day count. We can learn something each day that enables us to progress, or we can make other choices. The next day WILL always come, and it may seem like the same day, or it may seem like a brand new day, but one thing will be constant.....we each have the ability to impact the kind of day, and the kind of tomorrow, we are going to have.

There are four possibilities regarding a person's relationship with this movie:

1. "Never saw it." "Heard about it, seemed kinda stupid." "I don't care for Bill Murray" "Saw parts of it but it was just the same day over and over"................. To you I say...........there are some things in life worth thinking about and worth doing, so....set aside the time, watch the whole movie, and if its not as profound as I say, at worst you watched a romantic comedy that had some laughs. On the other hand, you may find that it positively affects your attitudes about a host of personal issues. That possibility makes it worth the "risk".

2. Saw it some time ago, it was OK, never thought about seeing again. Considering that the nature of "time" is a central issue of the movie, seeing this movie again after a passage of time might have a particularly strong impact.

3. Have seen it, didn't like it. I know that you too live each day to the fullest.

4. Love the movie, watch it whenever it's on. Thought I was the only one.


Here are a few Groundhog day related links.....

Am I right...or am I right?

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