feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
Groundhog Day faces its protagonist, Phil (Bill Murray), and the audience with a hypothetical circumstance, the opportunity to relive the same day repeatedly, enduring through the same people and the same setting time and time again, left to our own will to endure through it however we please. Despite the nature of an individual, I am quite certain that everyone would fall under similar happenstance, our desire at some point overruling our empathy, an opportunity to tailor our world to relieve our every need.
That was certainly the intention with Phil during his earlier run throughs, already reached a sense of acceptance towards his predicament, no longer conflicted with a deep sense of confusion, he acts on his thirsty impulses, he clings tightly to the lack of chronic consequence that would come his way, acting against the natural order and preordained his agenda with meticulous trial and error in the hopes that he would reach his end goals. Such intentions was however fitted with the pessimistic and egotistical nature of our protagonist, a man who demonstrates nil affections for others, particularly if it intrudes on his own personal comfort, he hides behind his armour of sarcasm and neglect, ensuring enough distance is maintained between himself and others.
It is a circumstance that slowly penetrates him, his emotions struck every time the clock strikes six, a vessel repeating its cycle yet its mind and soul continues. It is the unaffected emotional, psychological and spiritual growth that firmly lingers within the character that allows him to endure through life with revealing eyes, each moment similar in its structure, yet simultaneously new and profound; initially, he finds himself drenched in a state of frustration and depression, incapable to carry forward with the world, a life unworthy as what was once natural and fresh have become banal and tiresome, a play on the life of the working class, a life trudging through seeming lifelessness and un-spontaneity, lost in their world of responsibilities and expectations, a life no longer lived to the fullest, yet director Harold Ramis distances his film from such a grand message, remaining intimate to the emotions that arise and construct on screen, tight in its focus towards its protagonist, keeping our eyes locked as we witness the changes that would take place ahead.
The film could have easily shrinked its sights, micro-sizing the value of such a premise to remind the audience the power of true love, instilling emphasis on the relationship and its dynamics between Phil and his network producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell); but thankfully, it ambitiously reaches for something greater, and does so without losing its accessible appeal, told through a cinematic language that is universally understandable. Groundhog Day reminds us life’s extreme value, how we should aim to find the more optimistic and fulfilling aspects of our day, not to live a life doomed for disappointments and frustrations, to share such effect to those around, a collective growth that would indeed inch us a step closer to world happiness and peace. However, the value between Rita and Phil’s romance remain, one that would play a critical aspect to the final steps towards its finale, it is there that Phil would find his true happiness, the source of his passionate inspiration, the catalyst for his moral and emotional growth, one that never painfully swallows its viewers entirely as it strays confidently away from unapologetic sentimentality.
Due to the embarrassing fact that I have yet to stumble upon Scrooged, I can only confidently state that Murray’s embodiment of Phil would stand as his most despicable character, a man incapable of redemption if viewed upon the perspective of reality, but due to the fact that this is cinema, and specifically commercial production, one can see the footsteps of redemption ahead, even if its view is faint. It is a performance that delivers the range of an actor with striking precision and variance, conveying a growth that flows in a natural pattern, believable in his transformation, never for a moment left at a dull at a hint of manipulation or condescension. From the brushstrokes of Ramis, it was the least of my concerns to feel saddened by Phil’s journey, but surprisingly, a scene struck me, Phil upon discovery of the unescapable mortality of an old homeless man, attempts to revive him in the hopes he would endure through one more extra day, a failure that would hit him deeper than any of his previous successes; it was a moment worthy of endless tears, an event that would transform our own perspective of the world.
However dire, Groundhog Day will always be viewed upon as a life-affirming film, one that reignites our pessimistic existence, opening up our world to its articulate construction and beauty, we no longer have to suffer through Phil’s predicament as Ramis has already allowed him to suffer for us, we are simply positioned to be observers and absorbers, enduring through a subtle transformation that leaves our senses incredibly heightened. I will fall asleep tonight with assured comfort and waking up the next morning with a world of new stimulation, finally clearing through the smokescreen and see things for what they truly are.