Monday, June 30, 2014

Groundhog Day: Second thoughts

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


  1. A more recent movie 'Source Code' has more context for the time loop, but I'm not sure if you would like it. It's not That Movie but there could be some triggers.

    1. And if you like that movie's concept of possessing the body of some random person in the past, you could check out the show Quantum Leap.

  2. Love your blog. You seem to have the same taste for movies that I do. Here are some movies to consider for your list…

    my favorite classics:

    Casablanca – many catch phrases, quotable dialogue and lots of scenes that have been parodied to death over the years.

    Jaws – Spielberg’s first big movie. Man vs conscienceless Nature.

    The Godfather – as you watch this movie, you will be saying “so that’s where that (line) comes from!”

    The Sting – Fun con-men movie.

    Rocky – Already on your list. A great choice. Broke (and re-created) the mold for sports movies.

    The Graduate – Dustin Hoffman’s breakout movie.

    The Sixth Sense – Loved it, would have loved it more if people knew about spoiler alerts back then.

    The Manchurian Candidate (1962 version) – non-conventional movie back when movie making wasn’t so formulaic.

    The Magnificent Seven – Best western ever. Good depth of characters.

    A Few Good Men – Military courtroom drama. Awesome acting.

    My favorite action movies:

    The Road Warrior – Post-apocalyptic action on octane.

    Die Hard (the first one) – An adrenaline rush.

    Speed – Adrenaline rush X2. One my favorite villains.

    Lord of the Rings (Trilogy) – The books are boring. The movie adaptations were great. Unlike most people, I liked the second movie the best.

    Sudden Impact – My favorite of the Dirty Harry movies. Rather violent though.

    First Blood – Korean war veteran sheriff decides to push a Viet Nam war veteran who just isn’t in the mood for being pushed.

    The Mechanic (1972 version) – dated, but best ending to a movie, ever.

    We Were Soldiers – Good war movie.

    My favorite comedies:

    Tootsie – Romantic comedy that’s actually funny.

    Sixteen Candles – One of the lead character is a geek. Tons of laughs.

    Caddy Shack – Classic comedy with many classic comedians involved.

    Ruthless People – What do you do when you want to get rid of your wife and she’s conveniently kidnapped by some really ruthless people? Nothing!

    Spinal Tap – Parody of rockumenteries. Not laugh out loud humor, but a steady stream of chuckles.

    Spaceballs – Mel Brooks space parody.

    Anything with Monty Python in the title – you can’t go wrong if you like weird, silly humor with a bite of social commentary.

    My favorite westerns:

    Big Jake – A fun movie to watch, a bit violent in a few places, and builds to the best showdown between the good guys and the bad guys.

    The Good the Bad and the Ugly – classic Clint Eastwood

    My favorite “family” movies:

    Searching For Bobby Fischer – underappreciated. About parents dealing with a ubertalented child.

    Hoodwinked – animated, clever, fun.

    Over the Hedge – animated, clever, fun.

    Miracle – Best feel good movie.

    Foreign movie:

    Diabolique (1955) - French film noir. Black and white. Mistress. Murder. Mystery.

    1. Maybe a question for Jeremy: how do you feel about foreign language movies on the Big List? Should we dig into geeky Asian or Latin American or European stuff?

  3. The answer to "what is the best Christmas movie out there?" is

    Die Hard.

    Also, must see Caddy Shack to see Phil in his prime.

    1. No, the Answer is "Nightmare Before Christmans"

    2. Agreed that Die Hard is the best Christmas movie!

    3. Followed closely by Lethal Weapon :)

  4. Btw, a lot of later Science Fiction (and sometimes fantasy) shows have 'Groundhog Day' episodes. They've become a staple. There's also a recent movie that's basically 'Groundhog Day during an alien invasion.'

    So the concept is one with legs.