Apparently the difference between traveling in time and getting stuck in time is a cool car. I'd like to say that I'm confused about why, but really I think I've just met a film that's the definition, more or less, of "allegory."
Really it's this whole "try again until you get it right" idea that propels the movie forward. I didn't think it was going that way. After Phil's Wacky Let's Have A Car Chase, I was sure we'd be headed for a lot more hijinks and a lot less of Phil dwelling on this idea - which kiiiind of comes out of the blue - that he needs Rita. Not that I minded. Actually, it creates, I think, a much better movie. This is a charming movie. It's slow and subdued and the lead is perfect in the role because he's exactly the kind of character you want Phil Connors to be: jaded, cynical, even in the best of times raising an eyebrow like "you were hoping that I would react to that?"
Now on the one hand I think it's smarter that there's zero context for how or why or the rules of Phil's weird time loop. On the other, though, I'm left with this big question of: to what extent do other people not experience it? By the end of the loop you've got Doris and Nancy throwing money in a race to get their meathooks on this guy who gave a good newscast and plays a killer piano. Like Rita said, everyone seems to know him, but are there enough minutes in a day? I suppose it's asking a lot of a lighter-hearted movie to tell me whether Phil ever has to choose during a single loop between the fates of two people. What do I know about the original day? A kid probably dies from falling out a tree. Awesome Voice Guy probably dies from choking to death. Ned probably dies from a less patient man throttling him to death. A young couple never gets married, a fella with a bad back doesn't get better... I'm still pretty sure that in the final loop he had a young girl kicked out of her piano lesson and I don't know how much money he spent but Ned is happy and that makes Jeremy very unhappy.
So yeah - is there some sort of, I don't know, liminal awareness of Phil that builds in the town as he loops? That people would feel kinship and understanding and an innate ... not need but like just this conscious notion that he is someone they should remember and recognize? Or is it really just that he's become this old soul who knows every single person in the town so well that there's a level of instant understanding and empathy? I feel certain that it has to be the first one - or maybe it's both. Maybe it doesn't even matter?
At any rate, whether it's an allegory for becoming a better person by spending time with other people or seizing the day or even a long, subtle and complex reincarnation metaphor, I don't feel any need to break this movie down anymore. It's funny, it's charming, and I think I'll be watching it again on February 2nd. Possibly more than once. :D