Billy Pilgrim was unique, because he became unstuck in time. Does this imply that the rest of us are, in fact, stuck in time? Taking this idea to an extreme, Groundhog Day tells the story of Phil Connors, a deeply sour and egotistical weatherman, as he repeatedly lives through the same day (groundhog day) over and over again.
The story begins with Phil and his news crew (Rita the producer, and Larry the camera man) head to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the groundhog day festivities. The groundhog (whose name, consequentially, is also Phil) ominously “predicts” a long winter. Contrary to the prediction of Phil the weatherman, a massive blizzard hits, forcing the crew to stay the night in Punxsutawney. This is when the cycle begins. In this video, Phil Connors begins to realize what is happening to him.
Obviously distressing for the first few days, Phil ultimately learns to cope with the fact of his strange new existence. In the process of analyzing and accepting his situation, Phil reveals more and more levels of his psyche.
His initial reaction upon recognizing what is happening is to find ways to take advantage of the cycle for his own benefit: seducing women, stealing money, and living, literally, without a care for tomorrow. Phil has found power, and is using it to his own selfish ends.
This honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever. It’s impossible to know how many groundhog days Phil experienced; some have estimated in the ten thousand day range, others far more. As the day keeps grinding on, Phil grows tired of the usual debauchery. Exhausted by the cycle, and worried that it might never end, Phil becomes increasingly existential. He acts recklessly, interrogates his clueless peers about what he should do, and is driven to the point of insanity.
His woe reaches a climax, and he commits suicide. Well, almost. Upon death, he instantly wakes up at 6:00 a.m., with the same song playing, the same sun shining, and the same depression dominating his existence. Still in total rejection of the cycle that won’t let him go, Phil attempts suicide again. And again. And again and again and so forth. After countless deaths, the hopelessness of Phil’s situation is evident.
Repeatedly throughout the film, Phil is begged for change by an old homeless man. Every single time, a countless number of times, Phil turns the man down. But when Phil discovers that the day he has been reliving is in fact the day of the old man’s death, he is thrown into despair. Over and over he tries to save the old man’s life, but to no avail. Absolutely nothing can be done. Much like Billy Pilgrim, Phil is forced to accept the impotence of his position, and simply face the fate that time has handed him.
This marks the turning point in Phil’s journey. His focus turns away from mere self-pleasure, and instead turns outward to the people around him. He begins taking steps to fundamentally improve his character, while simultaneously humbling himself. With an infinite amount of time at hand, he ultimately accomplishes his goal.
On the last day of the cycle, Phil reaches perfection. His good hearted producer, Rita, falls in love with him at last, despite hating him only a “day” before. Phil wakes up beside Rita, and discovers that groundhog day has finally ended. Phil mentions that he would like to stay in Punxsutawney – the place that he so desperately wanted to leave earlier – indicating that he truly has eliminated his nagging desire to escape his fate.
I chose this film because I just like it so darn much. Its intriguing premise and deep philosophical musings elevate it above the point of being a mere comedy. Every time I watch this film, I find a new meaning within it that I had ever even considered before. And that is what good entertainment, and good art, is all about.