Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

27 February 2008

Groundhog Day, dir. Harold Ramis (1993)

STEVE says:
So I run this film class in Echuca on Wednesday nights, where a group of us get together once every two weeks, watch a film and discuss it afterwards. I set this up largely because, apart from Nikki, I can't find anyone around here who actually likes to think about a movie as they're watching it. The first movie we watched was Blade Runner: The Final Cut (which I didn't blog about because Nikki and I had watched it only a few weeks previous), and that went over pretty well, so I thought I'd do a complete 180 and give them a comedy - albeit a deeper comedy than they were probably expecting.

This movie works on two levels: You can enjoy it just as a silly Bill Murray comedy, or you can look at it philosophically and see that it holds a deeper spiritual meaning than, for example, The Passion of the Christ. Either way, you know.

Groundhog Day uses the K├╝bler-Ross model as a template, taking Bill Murray's Phil Connors through the five stages of grief and tragedy - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance - as he relives the same day over and over again for what director Harold Ramis tells us on the commentary is ten years (but what screenwriter Danny Rubin, a Zen-Buddhist, originally conceived as 10,000 years). During the discussion afterwards, we found that Phil was indeed in denial at first, questioning whether someone was playing a large-scale practical joke on him, or whether he was, in fact, insane; then he became angry, which manifest itself in more of a playful, devilish Phil than a truly angry Phil, where we figured he'd be lashing out at people; when depression set in, he began killing himself over and over and over again - and this is when he started to get really mean to people, displaying some of the anger we'd expected before; and finally into acceptance of his fate, which is what broke the spell - he started doing good things for others, solely because it was the right thing to do, rather than thinking about how it might benefit him.

The one stage we couldn't identify in the movie, thought, was Bargaining. Arguments were made that each time he attempted to change something from a previous "day", it could be construed as bargaining, but I felt that it was more of a gamble, as Phil wasn't giving anything up in order to make things right. But even so, what a fascinating model for a film that, on the surface, seems to be a light romantic comedy!

I was struck by the fact Phil is pretty much the same guy Murray played in Scrooged - the jerk who's reformed in the end by realizing that humanity on the whole is greater than himself. It's part of the "Cinderella" archetype (goodness triumphant after being initially despised). Makes me wonder if Murray isn't drawn to this sort of story.


Nikki did not view.

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