Monday, February 02, 2009

Screened: "Groundhog Day" (1993)


While I have long been a fan of Bill Murray (and for slightly less long wary of Andie MacDowell) something kept me away from the movie Groundhog Day for fifteen years... I call it the 'Rave Factor'. The more people go on and on about how great something is, the less inclined I am to partake, since invariably it's never going to be as good as the raves it's gotten. It doesn't work across the board - otherwise I'd be trying to peck this out on a PC for my BBS while listening to a Discman - but seems to pertain to media alone: books, TV shows, and movies especially. Because of this there are serious gaps in my knowledge, which in recent years I've been trying to fill.

Which is why today I finally sat down - on Groundhog Day - and watched Groundhog Day, despite the fact that I'd actually bought the thing in July*. I gotta say, as upset as I was with myself at not having seen it sooner, it couldn't have come into my life at a better time. There I sat, a cynical middle-aged schlub with what seems like his best years behind him, going nowhere, seemingly reliving the same day over and over again... It was less a movie than a mirror.

Clearly mine is the demographic director Harold Ramis was aiming at - a canny move, seeing as a) it's a group that's guaranteed to always be there, and b) living one's life in a rut could be the central metaphor for our times. Where Ramis achieves his most, though, is in toning down Murray's typically raucous approach while simultaneously endowing his leading lady with a personality. This move would not only bring about the cinematic revelation of Rushmore but prevent the filming of Green Card 2, and for both reasons we should all be grateful.

While not an epic movie in any way, Groundhog Day does deal with everyday life in an epic way; the magic realism of the time loop in which Murray's character finds himself (which, sensibly, remains unexplained) is a great device for exploring how we as individuals put ourselves - or otherwise allow ourselves to be put - in that rut we're in. What initially seems like a curse eventually turns into a blessing - time being the best gift there is - and Murray's character finds redemption, of course, when he stops living only for himself and puts his life in the service of others - as good a liberal moral as you're likely to find.

*For six bucks!

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Daniel said...

Starngely, I've never seen this film all the way through. I'm sure if I were to piece together all the scenes I've witnessed, I've seen the film 3 times over, the same as Grease. But then they start to blur together- they both have car-accidents, if I recall...

michael sean morris said...

My 'fragment movie' is 'Desperately Seeking Susan'; if I want the phone to ring I put that one in. Never fails.

I don't recall a car crash in 'Grease' but there is a race; then again, I frequently confuse it with 'Rebel Without A Cause' in my head.