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-drama film directed by Harold Ramis, starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliott. It was written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, based on a story by Rubin.
Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself 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.
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 is scheduled to premiere in 2016.
On February 1, misanthropic TV meteorologist Phil Connors (Bill Murray), news producer Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) of the fictional Pittsburgh television station WPBH-TV 9, travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities. The following morning, Phil, who does not like the assignment or Punxsutawney, grudgingly gives his report on the festivities. He then gets his team on the road back to Pittsburgh, but a blizzard shuts down all travel. The team is forced to return to Punxsutawney and stay another night.
Phil wakes up to find that he is reliving February 2. The day plays out exactly as it did before, with no one but Phil aware of the time loop. At first he is confused, but, when the phenomenon continues on subsequent days, he decides to take advantage of the situation with no fear of long-term consequences: he learns secrets from the town's residents, seduces women, steals money, gets drunk, drives recklessly, and gets thrown in jail. However, his attempts to get closer to Rita, to whom he has become attracted, repeatedly fail.
Eventually, Phil becomes depressed and tries more and more drastically to end the time loop; he gives ridiculous and offensive reports on the festival and eventually kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil and, after a police chase, drives off a high overlook into a quarry, killing both himself and the groundhog. However, Phil wakes up and finds that nothing has changed; further attempts at suicide also fail to break the time loop, as he continues to find himself waking at six o'clock on the morning of February 2 with the clock radio on his nightstand playing "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher.
When Phil explains the situation to Rita, she spends the day with him and into the early morning hours and they fall asleep together. However, he awakens again, alone, still in the time loop. Eventually, Phil endeavors to improve himself. He begins to use his by-now vast knowledge of the day's events to help as many people around town as possible, and uses the time to learn, among other things, how to play the piano, sculpt ice, and speak French (Italian in the French version).
Eventually, Phil is able to befriend almost everyone he meets during the day, using his experiences to save lives, to help townspeople, and ultimately to impress Rita, without having to resort to manipulation as on previous days. He crafts a report on the Groundhog Day celebration so eloquent that all the other stations turn their microphones to him. After the town's evening dance, Rita "buys" Phil at the event's bachelor auction. Phil makes a snow sculpture of Rita's face and they kiss, then retire to his room. He wakes the next morning and finds the time loop is broken; it is now February 3 and Rita is still with him. They walk outside and Phil proposes that they move to Punxsutawney together.
Time loop duration speculations
Estimates regarding how long Phil 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. In the DVD commentary, Ramis estimated a real-time duration of 10 years. Later, after several on-line sites arrived at a total of eight years, eight months, and 16 days, 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 2014, the website WhatCulture tallied various time duration assumptions and estimated that Phil spent a total of 12,395 days—just under 34 years—reliving Groundhog Day.
- 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
Prior to Murray's casting, Tom Hanks  and Michael Keaton  turned down the lead role of Phil. In the original screenplay, written 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.
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. They reconciled—at the encouragement of Murray's brother—only after Ramis entered the final stages of his terminal illness.
The film was shot in Woodstock, Illinois, 60 mi (97 km) northwest of Chicago near the Wisconsin border, because Punxsutawney "didn’t have a town center that looked good on camera", according to Ramis. Punxsutawney officials, miffed by the rebuff, refused to allow Punxsutawney Phil to appear in the movie. (The actual Punxsutawney Groundhog Day celebration is held not in the town itself, but in a clearing atop a wooded hill called Gobbler's Knob, about 2 mi (3.2 km) southeast of Punxsutawney). Residents of Woodstock brought out heaters to warm the cast and crew in cold weather. The Tip Top Cafe, where many scenes take place, was originally a set created for the film, but local demand led to its remaining open as a real cafe. It was later replaced by the Tip Top Bistro, followed by Bella's Gelateria, and still later by a chicken restaurant.
The soundtrack, by George Fenton, included Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe", which was released as a promotional Groundhog Day single with "Take Me Round Again" written by George Fenton, performed by Susie Stevens as B-side.
The film was released to generally favorable reviews, holding a score of 72 out of 100 at Metacritic. 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". Nonetheless, the film was selected by the National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress in 2006.
Among positive 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.'". It 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.
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. 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, 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.
- British Comedy Awards 1993 (Comedy Film)
- Saturn Award for Best Actress (Film) (Andie MacDowell, for playing Rita)
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.
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #34
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – #8 Fantasy Film
The phrase "Groundhog Day" has entered common use as a reference to an unpleasant situation that continually repeats, or seems to. Jonah Goldberg of the National Review paraphrased the common meaning of "groundhog day" as "same stuff, different day".
In the military, referring to unpleasant, unchanging, repetitive situations as "Groundhog Day" was widespread very 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 long periods between raids and monotonous long days. In February 1994, the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga referred to its 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 was released, "Groundhog Day" was noted as American military slang for any day of a tour of duty in Iraq, often used as a replacement for the slang term "SNAFU" ("Situation Normal: All Fucked Up"). In fact, an episode of the PBS mini-series Carrier that focuses on the repetition involved in a seafaring deployment is titled "Groundhog Day." In his Iraq War memoir Victory Denied MAJ Roger Aeschliman describes guarding visiting dignitaries for a long year as "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 likened British Prime Minister Tony Blair's treatment following the 2004 Hutton Inquiry to Groundhog Day. "[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 approvingly, "I could not have put it better myself. Indeed I did not put it better myself."
Groundhog Day has been considered a tale of self-improvement which emphasizes the need to look inside oneself and realize that the only satisfaction in life comes from turning outward and concerning oneself with others rather than concentrating solely on one's own wants and desires. The phrase also has become a shorthand illustration for the concept of spiritual transcendence. As such, the film has become a favorite of Buddhists because they see its themes of selflessness and rebirth as a reflection of their own spiritual messages. It has also, in the Catholic tradition, been seen as a representation of Purgatory. It has even been dubbed by some religious leaders as the "most spiritual film of our time".
Theologian Michael P. Pholey, writing for Touchstone Magazine, commented on the difficulty of determining a single religious or philosophical interpretation of the film, given Harold 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."
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.
On February 2, 2016, fans of the film in Liverpool, United Kingdom experienced their own 'Groundhog Day' by watching the film 12 times in 24 hours – 2 February being the day in which the film's protagonist becomes trapped.
In August 2003, Stephen Sondheim when asked what his next project might be said that he was interested in the idea of a musical adaption of Groundhog Day. In a 2008 live chat, however, he said that "to make a musical of Groundhog Day would be to gild the lily. It cannot be improved." In 2009, during an interview with MTV News Harold Ramis revealed that Danny Rubin was working on the book for a musical version of the film and in January 2014, it was revealed that lyricist Tim Minchin and director Matthew Warchus had teamed up with Rubin. A workshop was held in London on 12 July and Minchin performed a song from the show "Seeing You" during a concert in Hyde Park.
On 2 April 2015, the musical was officially confirmed and it was announced that the show would receive its Broadway premiere in March 2017. It was later announced the musical would receive its world premiere during 2016 at The Old Vic theatre in London, as part of director Matthew Warchus debut season as artistic director of the theatre. The musical has a book by Danny Rubin, based on his and Harold Ramis's original screenplay and is directed by Matthew Warchus, with choreography by Peter Darling and design by Rob Howell. The show features an original score and lyrics by Australian comedian and lyricist Tim Minchin. The production reunites most of the creative team behind the 2010 musical Matilda.
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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