I didn’t really get “Groundhog Day” when it first came to video. Surely, it’s not the most impossible dramedy out there, but it’s definitely so much more complex than audiences usually think of it. When it comes to existential drama comedies about self realizations in a fantastic setting, “Groundhog Day” is right up there with films like “Her” and “Eternal Sunshine.”
Bill Murray gives a very good performance as Phil, a struggling self involved weatherman forced to do meaningless local jobs for his news network, and swearing he’ll become a bigger news reporter someday. Murray is a wonder in playing such a self loathing dunce who doesn’t win the audience over right away. In fact, he doesn’t even really like himself too much. When he realizes he’s stuck in the small town he’s covering Groundhog Day in, and is re-living the same day over and over, he resorts to self abuse, then self pleasure, and then self indulgence, all for the misguided sake of the idea that he needs to do something for himself in order to break the maddening cycle. He resorts to manipulation, crime, and seduction, and still can’t understand why he’s being punished so much.
“Groundhog Day” takes a tough turn in the middle when Phil’s good deed affects an old begger on the street. Only then does he assume his repetitive state is meant for something other than self satisfaction. Phil is essentially the groundhog. He’s doomed to live out the same day until he acknowledges everything but his own existence, and this becomes a tough road to ho, considering Phil just isn’t a nice guy and has to gradually win over the audience, as well as himself. Granted, I wasn’t too fond of Andie MacDowell, as she’s a solid foil to Murray but an irritating character in her own right, but “Groundhog Day” has a good moral behind it with a brilliant concept. It definitely has a ton of replay value.