It’s February 2nd, which means it’s time for the annual rewatch of my all-time favorite existentialist Bill Murray comedy. Come for the Nietzscheanism, stay for the eminently quotable one-liners (and Michael Shannon’s film debut!).
It’s 6 degrees Fahrenheit in Michigan this morning. This isn’t an “it’s cold out there every morning” type of morning. It’s cooooooold out there, even by Midwest standards. On frigid mornings like this, winter feels it’s most wintery. It’s easy to feel like winter is never going to end, a sentiment Phil Connors can relate to: “You want a prediction about the weather? You’re asking the wrong Phil…it’s going to be cold, it’s going to be dark and it’s going to last you for the rest of your lives.”
I saw Groundhog Day on its release in 1993, and loved it immediately. It was Murray at his Murrayest: sarcastic and wry, with a not-so-thinly veiled contempt for, well, pretty much everyone else. It was, of course, laugh-out-loud funny, but it also had a lot to say about fate and mortality and immortality, themes missing from most Hollywood comedies. What would you do if you could live forever with no consequences? Would it be a blessing or a curse? Would you use that power for personal gain, or to make the world a better place? Can we alter the course of our fate or is everything pre-determined? In the end, Phil realizes that he just needs to be a better person, and he is freed to live his life happily, but not ever after.
Groundhog Day is not a perfect movie (Andie MacDowell is lovely, but one wonders what the role of Rita could have been in the hands of a better actress) but it’s awfully close. It’s ranked 34th on AFI’s list of the best American comedies, and deservedly so. At almost thirty years old, and almost thirty watches, it is at least as funny and meaningful as it ever was.
Now, about that Michael Shannon debut….