Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day ★★★★½

The true genius of Harold Ramis’ spectacular directorial opus is that by setting the film around the otherwise innocuous holiday occurring on February 2nd he has bestowed upon us a great annual tradition of watching Bill Murray act through the full range of his best characteristics in what is his most charming, cynical, depressing, and heart-warming role. Groundhog Day is a film so clever and well-executed in its conceit that you kick yourself for not thinking of it first. There have been many iterations of the “time loop” story since then, but never done as magnificently as here. Groundhog Day excels because it understands that the premise is entirely in service of Phil’s character arc, which in turn allows it to reach its full comic potential. The hardened cyclical persona of Phil on the beginning of the film shows just how manipulative and all-powerful one could become given infinite amount of time to learn the ins and outs of every individual and establishment in the cozy Pennsylvania town, but the film wouldn’t be truly successful if it was only a vessel for comedy. The central story of Groundhog Day remains compelling because the physical struggle Phil goes through being stuck in the same day over and over again directly correlates to the internal struggle his character must overcome for a satisfactory narrative to complete. It’s a sharp, well executed script that is paced incredibly well, backed by one of the best performances Murray ever gave in his career. At times it’s a stretch to believe Andie MacDowell’s character could so easily be won over by Phil in just one day’s time after practically hating him the day before, but I’m willing to be lenient as I am also incredibly charmed by Bill Murray; who wouldn’t be? Groundhog Day is the great tradition of repeatedly watching the same film every year despite knowing all the lines and all the scenes but being emotionally engaged nonetheless. However, instead of being trapped in this endless loop we joyously look forward to this every year, gleefully revisiting Punxsutawney and Phil Conners, the embittered weatherman whose icy heart melted away when the blizzard finally came and ended the nightmare of his long, everlasting day.

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