Groundhog Day (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Harold Ramis|
|Story by||Danny Rubin|
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Edited by||Pembroke J. Herring|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$70.9 million (North America)|
Groundhog Day is a 1993 American fantasy-comedy film directed by Harold Ramis, starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliott. It was written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself caught in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and committing suicide numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.
On its release, the film was a modest success and garnered favorable praise. Over time, it gained stronger appreciation as one of the top comedy films ever by critics and film historians. It further entered into the public consciousness, where the term "Groundhog Day" can represent a situation that seems to repeat over and over in government and military arenas, as well as influencing other entertainment. In 2006, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". A stage musical version of the film premiered in 2016.
During his nightly TV weather forecast on February 1, meteorologist Phil Connors (Bill Murray) confidently reassures Pittsburgh viewers that an approaching winter storm will miss western Pennsylvania completely. He then sets off with news producer Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the next morning's Groundhog Day festivities. Phil makes no secret of his contempt for the assignment, the small town, and the "hicks" who live there.
On February 2, Phil awakens at his Punxsutawney bed & breakfast to Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" on the clock radio and the declaration, "It's Groundhog Day!" He tapes a half-hearted report on Punxsutawney Phil and the town's festivities. Rita wants to stay and cover some of the other events, but Phil wants to return to Pittsburgh immediately. The blizzard—the one that Phil predicted would miss the area—resolves the issue by blanketing the region in snow, stranding them in Punxsutawney. Phil shuns the celebrations and retires to bed early.
Phil wakes to "I Got You Babe" and the same announcement from the radio, and soon discovers the day's events repeating exactly as before. Thinking it is a bad dream, Phil relives the day and returns to bed, only to discover when he wakes, it is still Groundhog Day. He finds he is trapped in a time loop that no one else is seemingly aware of. Phil realizes there are no consequences for his actions, and spends the first several loops in rambunctious behavior, such as binge drinking, one-night stands, and reckless driving. However, Phil soon becomes depressed being stuck in the loop, leading to him to find ways to commit suicide to end the loop, including electrocuting himself with a toaster in a bathtub, and stealing Punxsutawney Phil and driving off a cliff. Even with his apparent deaths, he still wakes up to "I Got You Babe" on February 2.
Phil tries to explain his situation to Rita, for whom he has feelings. To demonstrate his plight to Rita, he points out all the trivial actions of the various townsfolk he has memorized due to being stuck in the loop. Rita takes sympathy and they spend the entirety of one loop together, ending up falling asleep on Phil's bed that night. However, Phil still wakes up alone at the start of February 2. He decides to use his knowledge of the day's events to try to better himself and the lives of the townsfolks. Over many loops, he learns how to play the piano, sculpt ice, and speak French. After finding himself unable to prevent the death of a homeless man over several loops, he starts to arrange his actions throughout the day to avert similar accidents and disastrous situations that otherwise would have occurred to the other Punxsutawney residents.
Ultimately, on one loop, Phil eagerly attends the Groundhog Day festivities, and gives a very eloquent report that causes all of the other news-stations to turn their cameras to him, amazing Rita. Phil and Rita spend the rest of the day together, with Phil impressing her with his apparent overnight transformation through his contributions to the festivities and helpful nature to the townsfolk. That evening at the town's Groundhog Day dinner-dance, she "wins" Phil with the high bid at the charity bachelor auction. Phil makes a beautiful snow sculpture of Rita's face, and tells her that no matter what happens, even if he is doomed to continue awakening alone each morning forever, he wants her to know that he is finally happy, because he loves her. They retire together to Phil's lodgings.
Phil wakes to "I Got You Babe" again, but finds Rita is still in bed with him, and Punxsutawney covered in a fresh blanket of snow; it is February 3 and he has been able to escape the time loop. As they walk out together and marvel at the peaceful, beautiful town, Phil comments to Rita that they should live there—but will rent to start.
- Bill Murray as Phil Connors
- Andie MacDowell as Rita Hanson
- Chris Elliott as Larry the camera man
- Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned Ryerson
- Brian Doyle-Murray as Buster Green
- Angela Paton as Mrs. Lancaster
- Rick Ducommun as Gus
- Rick Overton as Ralph
- Robin Duke as Doris the waitress
- Marita Geraghty as Nancy Taylor
- Harold Ramis as Neurologist
- Willie Garson as Phil's Asst. Kenny
- Ken Hudson Campbell as man in hallway
- Richard Henzel as D.J. #1
- Rob Riley as D.J. #2
- David Pasquesi as Psychiatrist
- Hynden Walch as Debbie the bride
- Michael Shannon as Fred the groom
- Eric Saiet as Buster's son
- Peggy Roeder as the piano teacher
- Sandy Maschmeyer as Phil's movie date
Prior to Murray's casting, Tom Hanks  and Michael Keaton  turned down the lead role. In the original screenplay by Danny Rubin, the story line began mid-narrative with Phil already inexplicably trapped in the time loop, and ended with his suicide, only to awaken on the morning of February 2 once again. In that version, Rita eventually confessed to being trapped in a time loop of her own. Many critical script alterations were written as filming progressed, according to Stephen Tobolowsky, who played Ned Ryerson. "When I got the part, it was still kind of a mediocre Bill Murray movie," he said. "You know, Bill Murray, with no consequences, in comic situations ... It wasn’t until we got into the shooting that everything turned on its head. And it became not only a good movie, not only a great movie, but a classic."
During filming, Ramis and Murray's longtime collaboration and friendship ended abruptly, without public explanation. Except for a few words at a wake, and later at a bar mitzvah, the two men did not speak for almost 20 years after the film's release. Murray finally initiated a reconciliation—at the suggestion of his brother—only after Ramis entered the final stages of his terminal illness.
The second draft of the screenplay for the film established the reason for Phil to be put in a time loop, according to actor Eddie Deezen. In that version, Phil unceremoniously dumps his current girlfriend Stephanie during the introductory scenes of the film at the studio. While Phil then is at Punxsutawney, a scorned Stephanie figures a way to cast a spell to trap Phil within the loop for 10,000 years. Deezen said he was not aware why Stephanie or mention of the curse was dropped from the film, but noted that the remainder of this second draft essentially remained for the film.
The film was shot in Woodstock, Illinois, 60 miles (97 kilometres) northwest of Chicago near the Wisconsin border, because Punxsutawney "didn’t have a town center that looked good on camera", according to Ramis, and because Punxsutawney's remote location magnified the logistical problems and expense of filming there. Punxsutawney officials, miffed that their town had been passed over, refused to allow the real Punxsutawney Phil to appear in the movie, but sent representatives to Woodstock to make sure the ceremony was being depicted accurately. (Punxsutawney's actual Groundhog Day celebration is held not in the town itself, but in a clearing atop a wooded hill called Gobbler's Knob, about 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) southeast of Punxsutawney.)
Punxsutawney Phil was played by a series of groundhogs collectively known as Scooter. "[The animals] hated my guts from day one," said Murray, who was bitten twice during shooting, severely enough that he was forced to undergo precautionary rabies immunization afterward.
The Tip Top Cafe, where many indoor scenes took place, was a set created for the film; but it became an actual restaurant, the Tip Top Bistro, following the movie's success. Later, it became a coffee and Italian ice cream shop, and after that a fried chicken outlet. The Cherry Street Inn, the Queen Anne-Victorian bed & breakfast where Murray's character stayed, was a private home at the time of filming. Today, it is an actual bed & breakfast.
Since 1992, Woodstock has staged an annual Groundhog Day festival, featuring a dinner dance, free screenings of the movie, and a walking tour of the opera house, bowling alley, movie theatre, Moose Lodge (site of the dinner dance scene), piano teacher's house, Cherry Street Inn, and other locations from the film.
Time loop duration speculations
Estimates regarding how long Phil supposedly remains trapped in the loop, in real time, vary widely. During filming, Ramis, who was a Buddhist, observed that according to Buddhist doctrine, it takes 10,000 years for a soul to evolve to its next level. Therefore, he said, in a spiritual sense, the entire arc of Groundhog Day spans 10,000 years. Deezen noted that the second draft of the screenplay called for Phil to be cursed to live the time loop for 10,000 years. In the DVD commentary, Ramis estimated a real-time duration of 10 years. Later, Ramis told a reporter, "I think the 10-year estimate is too short. It takes at least 10 years to get good at anything, and allotting for the down time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years." In 2005, Rubin said, "Ultimately it became this weird political issue because if you asked the studio, 'How long was the repetition?', they'd say, 'Two weeks'. But the point of the movie to me was that you had to feel you were enduring something that was going on for a long time ... For me it had to be—I don't know. A hundred years. A lifetime." In 2014, the website WhatCulture combined various time duration assumptions and estimated that Phil spent a total of 12,395 days—just under 34 years—reliving Groundhog Day.
The film was released to generally favorable reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times called it "a particularly witty and resonant comedy" and Hal Hinson of The Washington Post called it "the best American comedy since 'Tootsie'". Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave it a "B–", and Desson Howe of The Washington Post noted that even though the film is a good Bill Murray vehicle, "'Groundhog' will never be designated a national film treasure by the Library of Congress".
Roger Ebert revisited it in his "Great Movies" series. After giving it a three-star rating in his original review, Ebert acknowledged in his "Great Movies" essay that, like many viewers, he had initially underestimated the film's many virtues and only came to truly appreciate it through repeated viewings.
The film is number 32 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies". In Total Film's 1990s special issue, Groundhog Day was deemed the best film of 1993 (the year that saw the release of Schindler's List, The Piano, A Perfect World and The Fugitive). In 2000, readers of Total Film voted it the seventh greatest comedy film of all time. The Writers Guild of America ranked the screenplay #27 on their list of 101 Greatest Screenplays ever written. In 2009, American literary theorist Stanley Fish named the film as among the ten best American films ever. In 2011, Time Out London named it the 5th-greatest comedy film of all time.
Groundhog Day holds a 96% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The site's consensus reads "Smart, sweet, and inventive, Groundhog Day highlights Murray's dramatic gifts while still leaving plenty of room for laughs". The film is regarded as a contemporary classic. It has a score of 72 out of 100 at Metacritic.
The film was a solid performer in its initial release, grossing $70.9 million in North America and ranking 13th among films released in 1993. It was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, but lost to Jurassic Park.
- BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay 1994
- British Comedy Awards 1993 (Comedy Film)
- Saturn Award for Best Actress (Film) (Andie MacDowell)
In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten Top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Groundhog Day was acknowledged as the eighth best film in the fantasy genre.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #34
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10:
- #8 Fantasy Film
Interpretations and analysis
The film is often considered an allegory of self-improvement, emphasizing that happiness comes from placing the needs of others above one's own selfish desires. Because no effort is made to explain why the time loop occurs—or why it ends—the viewer is left to draw his or her own conclusions.
"Groundhog Day", as an expression, has also become shorthand for the concept of spiritual transcendence. As such, the film has become a favorite of some Buddhists who see its themes of selflessness and rebirth as reflections of their own spiritual messages. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it has been seen as a representation of purgatory. "Connors goes to his own version of hell, but since he’s not evil it turns out to be purgatory, from which he is released by shedding his selfishness and committing to acts of love," wrote Goldberg. "Meanwhile, Hindus and Buddhists see versions of reincarnation here, and Jews find great significance in the fact that Connors is saved only after he performs mitzvahs [sic] (good deeds) and is returned to earth, not heaven, to perform more." It has even been described by some religious leaders as the "most spiritual film of our time". “The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived," wrote the critic Rick Brookhiser. "And his reward is that the day is taken from him. Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.”
Theologian Michael P. Pholey, writing for Touchstone Magazine, commented on the difficulty of determining a single religious or philosophical interpretation of the film, given Ramis's "ambiguous religious beliefs" as "an agnostic raised Jewish and married to a Buddhist", and suggested that when not viewed through a "single hermeneutical lens", the film could be seen as "a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos." Others see an interpretation of Nietzsche’s directive to imagine life—metaphorically or literally—as an endless repetition of events. "How would this shape your actions?" asks Goldberg. "What would you choose to live out for all eternity?"
The narrative of someone being stuck in a time loop and only being able to escape by using knowledge accumulated through multiple passes is considered a popular trope in fictional works, and the website TVTropes has named this trope a "Groundhog Day Loop". While films like Edge of Tomorrow and ARQ use this trope, it has also been popular to use in television shows, with one of the more recognized examples being The X-Files episode "Monday". However, the trope is also used in other genres of shows including sit-coms and dramas. Pilot Viruet, for Vice, says of the apparent popularity of the trope in television: "Because of the inherent reset button the trope provides, an episode of TV can explore different scenarios, plots, character interactions, and outcomes—and if any of them don't quite feel right, the writers can start over (often with the ringing of a shrill alarm clock)."
In the military, referring to unpleasant, unchanging, repetitive situations as "Groundhog Day" became widespread soon after the movie's release in February 1993. A magazine article about the aircraft carrier USS America mentions its use by sailors in September 1993. The film was a favorite among the Rangers deployed for Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia in 1993, because they saw the film as a metaphor of their own situation, waiting monotonous long days between raids. In February 1994, crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga referred to their deployment in the Adriatic Sea, in support of Bosnia operations, as Groundhog Station. A speech by President Clinton in January 1996 specifically referred to the movie and the use of the phrase by military personnel in Bosnia. Fourteen years after the movie's release, "Groundhog Day" was noted as common American military slang for any day of a tour of duty in Iraq, often as a successor to the World War II-era slang term "SNAFU" ("Situation Normal: All Fucked Up").
In his Iraq War memoir Victory Denied, MAJ Roger Aeschliman describes guarding assorted visiting dignitaries as his "Groundhog Day":
The dignitary changes but everything else is exactly the same. The same airplanes drop them off at the same places. The same helicopters take us to the same meetings with the same presenters covering the same topics using the same slides. We visit the same troops at the same mess halls and send them away from the same airport pads to find our own way home late at night. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over until we are redeemed and allowed to go home to Kansas. Amen.
Member of Parliament Dennis Skinner compared British Prime Minister Tony Blair's treatment following the 2004 Hutton Inquiry to the film. "[The affair] was, he said, like Groundhog Day, with the prime minister's critics demanding one inquiry, then another inquiry, then another inquiry." Blair responded, "I could not have put it better myself. Indeed I did not put it better myself."
In 2004, Italian film director Giulio Manfredonia shot a remake of Groundhog Day under the title of È già ieri (It's Yesterday Already). The movie features a mixed cast of Italian and Spanish actors and actresses and is about an egocentric TV documentarian (Antonio Albanese) who finds himself trapped in a time loop during a reportage he is taking in Tenerife.
Although Stephen Sondheim expressed interest in creating a musical adaption of the film in 2003, he eventually concluded that " ... to make a musical of Groundhog Day would be to gild the lily. It cannot be improved." Nevertheless, Ramis announced in 2009 that Rubin was working on an adaptation. At a 2014 concert in Hyde Park, the Australian comedian and lyricist Tim Minchin performed a song he had written for the show, "Seeing You".
The musical was officially confirmed in April 2015, with a book by Rubin based on his and Ramis's original screenplay, directed by Matthew Warchus, choreography by Peter Darling, design by Rob Howell, and an original score and lyrics by Minchin. The production reunites most of the creative team behind the 2010 musical Matilda. It will be premiered in 2016 at The Old Vic theatre in London as part of Warchus's debut season as artistic director there. A Broadway debut is scheduled for March 2017.
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Angela Zito, a co-director of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University, screens the film for students in her Buddhism class. She said that Groundhog Day perfectly illustrates the Buddhist notion of samsara, the continuing cycle of rebirth that Buddhists regard as suffering that humans must try to escape (a belief, Dr. Zito noted, that was missed by executives at Guerlain, who, searching for an exotic name, introduced a perfume called Samsara in the 1980s, overlooking the negative connotations). Groundhog Day, Dr. Zito said, is a cinematic version of the teachings in Mahayana Buddhism, known as "the greater vehicle." "In Mahayana," she said, "nobody ever imagines they are going to escape samsara until everybody else does. That is why you have bodhisattvas, who reach the brink of nirvana, and stop and come back and save the rest of us. Bill Murray is the bodhisattva. He is not going to abandon the world. On the contrary, he is released back into the world to save it."
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- Groundhog Day at the Internet Movie Database
- Groundhog Day at the TCM Movie Database
- Groundhog Day at AllMovie
- Groundhog Day at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Groundhog Day at Box Office Mojo
- Groundhog Day at Rotten Tomatoes
- Roger Ebert (1993-02-12). "Groundhog Day". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Roger Ebert (2005-01-30). "Groundhog Day". Chicago Sun-Times.
- The Guardian article: "Groundhog Day: the perfect comedy, for ever" by Ryan Gilbey, February 2013
- Real-life "Groundhog Days" studied
- Groundhog Day 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour
- Pictures of some filming locations
- Essays and Original Screenplay by Danny Rubin (Feb 2 2012)
- Groundhog Day and parallel universes