Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day ★★★★

I'm not a fan of romantic comedies. Well, maybe occasionally in a guilty pleasure sort of way if there's nothing else to watch, but I don't exactly hold them in the highest regard. Sure, they're lighthearted and innocent fun, but most of the time they come off as too goofy and hammy. Then there's Groundhog Day, a rom-com which takes all that and couples it with the story of Sisyphus to make an immensely lovely film, full of hilarious humor, amazing acting, and wonderful writing. Now I understand why it has stood the test of time for so long: it's a top-notch comedy that's as heartwarming and inspiring as it is funny.

This is the story of Phil Connors, an egotistic and grouchy weatherman who takes up - hopefully for the last time - his most loathed assignment: covering Groundhog Day in small-town Pennsylvania. Unfortunately for him, however, his plan to go back to the big city as fast as possible is ruined by a time-loop, and he's forced to relive the same day over and over again. Unburdened from any consequences that might come later, Phil begins living every day like there's no tomorrow and embraces absolute freedom along with all the joys and setbacks that come with that.

Groundhog Day is an absurdist story that even Camus would be proud of, but despite those philosophical underpinnings, it still carries a cheerful and upbeat message. Phil's reliving of Groundhog Day is a modern re-imagining of Sisyphus pushing the boulder, but Phil's story is also one of redemption and rebirth. Although the repetition of Groundhog Day is a blessing and a curse to him, he ultimately uses it to become a better person, and that's the positive message of the film: there's inherent goodness in people; and just because what you do today might not matter tomorrow, that doesn't mean you should throw basic decency and humanity out the window. Bill is a happy Sisyphus, a man who abandons his self-centered ways to become the most beloved person in town. On top of being an intriguing way of examining Phil's character, the unusual premise also adds to the film's humor. From witty one-liners to deadpan to slapstick, it's got it all, and everything's done with perfect comedic timing to boot.

Director Harold Ramis (who also co-wrote Groundhog Day) does an excellent job of keeping the audience engaged in the film thanks to the plentiful laughs and some unexpectedly touching moments. He masterfully threads the needle between making the film thought-provoking and fun: you never realize just how much there is to digest until the very end of Phil's self-discovering journey, because Ramis wants you to enjoy the film and have fun watching it. The cherry on top to all this is the cuts upon cuts of Phil getting slapped in the face, as well as the great music choices.

If you needed any more reasons to watch it, Groundhog Day also features one of Bill Murray's best film performances ever. He simply excels in the role of Phil, demonstrating terrific range and nuance as his character goes from bewildered to depressed to wholesome. His transition from selfish meteorologist to a man who truly cares about those around him is uplifting and hysterical from the very start, and Murray nails every aspect of it.

In short, Groundhog Day is just plain lovely. It didn't occur to me to wait until the actual Groundhog Day to watch it considering it's less than a month away, but I enjoyed it so much that I wouldn't at all mind re-watching it so soon. And I highly recommend everyone else do the same.