Some links to see to first of all. At our joint blog, we have a Without A Word post for your consideration. At AngryParsnip's blog, The Two Square Dogs find themselves confronting a most dangerous adversary. GK looks at a small California town over at her page. Eve, aka The Desert Rocks, has started up a fresh blog. Mark has had quite enough of winter, thank you very much. Shelly's hounds have a guest, of sorts.
Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. That annual day in which groundhogs are dragged from their dens by top-hatted cheerful people to prognosticate the odds of an early spring (safe bet: spring is a long, long way off). I have in the past blogged on this particular date in the calendar, but this time out, I thought I would instead do a review of the film bearing the same name as the day...
"What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?" ~ Phil
"That about sums it up for me.~ Ralph
"You want a prediction about the weather, you're asking the wrong Phil. I'll give you a weather prediction: it's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last the rest of your life." ~ Phil
Groundhog Day, the 1993 classic comedy from director Harold Ramis, tells the story of a cynical and jaded Pittsburgh weatherman, Phil Connors (Bill Murray), condemned to travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the annual prognostication by the resident groundhog for the coming spring. It's not the sort of assignment he wants, and he doesn't care for the town either. He goes regardless with producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) to the small town, complaining along the way, and wakes up the following morning to head off to cover the festivities. Afterwards, in trying to leave town, Phil finds out the roads are closed by an incoming snowstorm, and the trio are forced to return to their lodgings. Then things take an odd turn.
Phil wakes up the next morning... but it's Groundhog Day again. Everything he went through the previous day is happening again. And he's the only one who seems to realize that this has all happened before. And so it goes... Phil finds himself caught in an endless loop of Groundhog Days.
Ramis comes from a background as a comedic actor- he co-starred with Murray in Ghostbusters- and it shows itself in his work as a director. He co-wrote the screenplay for this with Danny Rubin, and the story moves briskly, hinging on both a very clever sense of humour and a narrative of a strong character study. Despite the fact that we're seeing the same day play itself out time and time again, it never gets boring. Ramis plays around with the concept throughout, always giving us a fresh angle on each Groundhog Day in turn. Ramis and the crew shot most of the film on location in Illinois, and his choice of locales fills in quite nicely for the real Punxsutawney... it feels very much like a small town.
The casting of the film is wonderful. There are the small character roles, such as character actor Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned, who briefly dated Phil's sister (and who Phil at first has trouble remembering); he comes across first as the obnoxiously overly cheerful guy you'd cross the street to avoid. We meet him again repeatedly as Phil goes about his many, many Groundhog Days. Chris Elliott gives us a dry, hangdog sort of performance as Larry, perplexed by the sort of behaviour he sees out of Phil as each day goes by.
Andie MacDowell as Rita plays the role very well indeed. The character is a likable and kind hearted kind of person, inherently decent. She's dubious of Phil's confession when at first he declares that they're all going through the same day over and over again. And she has terrific chemistry with Murray as the two of them get to know each other better- Phil, mind you, manages to remember details as they pass from day to day.
Murray's performance is something of a revelation. Through his career he's often played the wiseguy, the jaded cynic, and the comedic characters, and those are all on display in this role. At the same time, Murray's a very good actor, and all of these qualities come out as the movie goes along. At first when he realizes there are no consequences to his action, he enjoys himself doing whatever he pleases- saying outrageous things, seducing women, stealing money, committing crimes. Then the despair sets in as he realizes he is truly stuck in the same day, and Murray conveys that despair perfectly as he tries to find ways to off himself, failing each time. Gradually as he goes along, he goes from being the man he started out as- the self absorbed jerk- to becoming a much better man.
Groundhog Day holds up so well over time because it's fresh each and every time. It's a smart story that doesn't mind being smart- a very welcome thing in a comedy. Aside from being a comedy, it's also a very thoughtful film and an ideal character study. And it's a splendid way to spend a Groundhog Day, instead of cursing that little rodent for predicting seventeen more weeks of winter.