DIRECTOR: Harold Ramis
This comedy stands up well and is one of Murray’s best. Oscars mean nothing. Awards mean nothing. A great comedy can speak more than a 180 minute film that is dying for recognition for the sake of it. I’d challenge all award shows to define “Best Picture” ” Best Actor” or ” Best Director” before dishing them out.
Murray is the weatherman in this film, you know the warm friendly weatherman. Unfortunately he’s the bitter, sad weatherman that simply wants a paycheck.
Murray plays Phil Connors, a bored and tired weatherman who has to go to Punxsutawney, PA to shoot a report about Groundhog Day. If the groundhog appears out of its burrow on a cloudy day then Spring will arrive early however if the groundhog sees its shadow and retreats into its burrow then it signifies six more weeks of winter. He’s done this shoot for too many years, egocentric Connors hates his job and wants out. On the journey with him is Rita (Macdowell) and his cameraman Larry (Elliot). After shooting the footage a blizzard prevents them from travelling back home stranding them in Punxsutawney, PA.
This is where the fun begins. The next morning Connors awakes to the same very day and he tries to figure out why. Bill Murray plays his part perfectly and was made for this role. Tom Hanks was considered for the lead but he’d be too nice and not cynical enough.
As Phil can’t escape the same old day repeating itself, he figures he has to learn what’s going on and sees a counsellor. Connors is still centred and narcissistic. The counsellor doesn’t understand the situation. We watch Phil in a stage of carelessness where he’ll drink, drive on the train tracks and being carefree knowing tomorrow is today with no consequences. It doesn’t satisfy him, he’s just wasting time with his life. Murray’s deadpan character then chooses to take even more advantage of waking up in a repetitive day and strives to discover what Rita likes so he can win her heart. What’s his motivation? He’s simply using everyday so he can finally one day go the distance with his producer. He has ambition but it’s serving himself and nobody else. A dead end. That’s exactly what he attempts next. Death. If he tries suicide by electrifying himself with a toaster in a bathtub, will he wake up on a different day or not at all? The same day again. Connors is forced to see life differently, he knows the town and the locals and now begins to change by helping them. The outcome of the day begins to change and with that Rita sees more heart in Phil.
There is a diner scene which plays out well where Phil is trying to convince Rita that he knows everything. He knows the names of everyone in the diner, he can predict in five seconds someone will drop plates and can recite dialogue of Larry before the cameraman arrives. It’s the only way to force Rita to believe in his sour predicament. This early scene shows Murray’s character trying to come to grips with why this event is happening to him. He hasn’t reached turning point but is open to ideas and his walls are coming down of self centredness.
Bill Murray would make the ultimate drinking buddy in Hollywood. He has the ability to be natural on screen and show a dry vulnerability that others can’t pull off. Who cares about the method actors of the world, give us Murray.
Bill Murray as Phil Connors
Andie MacDowell as Rita
Chris Elliot as Larry