Bill Murray is the man. That is if he is not some super hero in man’s clothing. He is the man about town and the man about movies. He is also an avid Cub’s fan, and this is why we should be best friends. It is said that he doesn’t carry a cell phone, that if want him to star in one of your films, you simply have to call a number, leave a message, and maybe he will get back to you. And maybe he won’t. Another tale is of him entering a cab, noticing a saxophone in the front seat next to the cabbie. When asked how good a player he is, the driver says he isn’t, he doesn’t have time to practice, he tries to practice between drives. At this point, Mr. Murray then changes seats with the man, allowing him to practice his sax in the back seat as Mr. Murray drives the cab. Look it up. Mr. Murray is not a particularly handsome fellow, but I’m sure he does well with the ladies. A man of his type of charm always does, because he can give them something what other men can’t. And what is something that makes women swoon and men jealous you may ask? I don’t know, I am not Bill Murray.
No one else could play the role. The one of a man with a bigger than life ego. I’m not sure anyone else was even offered it. But it doesn’t matter now, the movie is made and history seems to be what history is: history. He is Phil Conner, the weatherman sent to do a report on Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who’s shadow, or lack thereof, is the predictor of six more weeks of winter or not. Maybe it is lost that Phil Conner (Bill Murray) and the groundhog (Phil), both share the same name. I bet you didn’t notice that. And in doing so, the writer makes a small and subtle twist of who Groundhog’s Day is all about. It’s about Phil. But it’s really about us.
Groundhog Day was nothing more of a silly little holiday at the beginning of the year. A day when a small animal would make a big predication on the weather. But in 1993, Bill Murray and his film changed all that. In a matter of cinamatic history, this film turned a silly holiday into a cultural phenomenon. Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. A day that is easily forgotten is now a day you need to mark on your calendar, as the day you remember the past, and how you plan on spending your future. Long story short, Groundhog Day may be one of the most important holidays you aren’t celebrating, but should.
I remember watching the movie and immediately thinking of what it would be like to live the same day over and over. Waking to the same song, in the same bed, and about to experience the same events. What would I do differently, what kinds of lessons would I eventually learn that would help me unlock the secrets of escaping the life I was living? I watch the show now as an adult and I get it. I see the brilliance in the screen writing and the meaning of the storyline. You can’t move forward until you take care of today. So what needs to be taken care of today? Better question, what needs to happen yesterday to help you understand today? To get to tomorrow.
Groundhog Day has become a saying for being stuck, for repeating the past; day after day. BIll’s Phil and Punxsutawney’s Phil are the same. Both have jobs to do and expectations to deal with. Big Phil is angry at life, and angry that he has to be at a place where he doesn’t want to be, around people he doesn’t know (or care to know), and do a job about an animal that he doesn’t feel is important. But is that part of the twist? Do we need to take care of the little, primate “Phil” in order for the “man Phil” to move on? The movie is sweet and endearing, and it reminds us that no matter what we do to try and fool ourselves, we can never fool time. Sooner or later we need to do what we need to do, to be the us we need to be, and that lesson is hopefully learned before time slips away.
To be or not to be: that is the question. But when? But how?
For Phil, it is Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell). His intensions in his normal life were not of the purest sense, he was simply being him, or at least the him he thought he was. But soon he learned, that she was the key, that she was the one that helped him learn the greatest of all the lessons, who he really was, who he wanted to be all along. Groundhog Day is nothing more than a simple love story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets his life together and gets girl back, becoming the person he needs to become, and becoming the man she needed all along. But in truth, maybe the story is even simpler than that, that the love you give returns to you. And if you ain’t got no love to give, don’t be expecting any love back at you. Like everything else in the universe, the circle of life spins round, and if Karma exists, we learn what goes around comes around, and yes, that includes love.
The movies underlying topic of life is serious, and funny, if we see it that way. Life is merely perspective. And the film is the perfect representation of life itself. Sometimes we step in the same pot hole, sometimes we deal with the same people over and over. The surroundings we live in is not as important of how we view them. A man that is not happy where he stands is a man that will never be happy wherever he stands. It is not the place, it is the person, and in this film, maybe we can all learn that lovely lesson, and quit chasing the physical places that makes us happy, and learn where the inward one is. We are all Phil (the big one and the little one), we all have our moments of self absorption and ego, but don’t we all have the real us inside us too, just waiting to break free. Like the groundhog Phil, don’t we all just hang around underground waiting for our big moment, all the while not realizing that we don’t need a special date or someone to tell us when to come out? Both Phils have their day in the movie, it just takes Bill Murray’s Phil a lot longer to figure out what his day really is.
In an interview, the director of the movie was once asked how long Phil was in his time loop. Harold Ramis simply and matter of factly replied that Phil was there for 10 years. Can you imagine, relieving the same day over and over for 10 years, taking that long to finally figure out what you want, and what you need? Sometimes it takes us a lifetime to appreciate the wonders of the world that surround us. We all live on different time loops, hoping that sooner or later, we can stop this train, go to the place we can finally call home, and then, we can finally move forward
Another small, but important, piece of screenwriting brilliance that is surely lost, is the particular splicing of the Sonny and Cher hit I Got You Babe. Every morning when Phil wakes at 6:00 am, the alarm begins with the last line of the song “then put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb”. What you may not realize during the final scene when Phil wakes for the last time and the song again plays (with Rita by his side), the song doesn’t start with that line, it starts with the chorus “I got you babe”. Perhaps that was intentional, and if not, it should be. It should be noted that for every morning that Phil was trapped in his time warp, he was awaken to the same advise over and over again, that maybe the song was from Rita all along. That maybe the song was from the universe all along, that all Phil needs to do, all any of us really need to do in this life to get by, is “put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb”. We all need help to get where we need to go, we all just need a hand. It is then, and only then, can we wake to the chorus, after the lesson is finally learned. Who’s hand do you want to hold? Who’s hand do you need to hold?
I love the movie and the meaning. And I love Bill Murray. He has taken a day that didn’t mean much, and made it into something more. A day when we can reflect on ourselves in the mirror rather than just look for a shadow of ourselves on the ground. I love the fact that people can change, and that people will allow us to do so, accepting the new and forgiving the old. Aren’t we all just trying to figure out if it’s going to be cold and grey, or sunny and new? The good news for us humans, we can have our spring start whenever we want, we just need to come out of our holes and let people cheer for us. Oh, and grab someone’s hand for the hard hike up the mountain. Sometimes, we need to get out of the backseat of the cab, and get into the driver’s seat, and take control of the magical moments we are all capable of. Enjoy the drive. Enjoy the music.
Happy Groundhog Day!!