Groundhog Day and Bittersweet Lessons

Whether or not you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably heard of the expression “it feels like groundhog day”. The phrase indeed refers to the iconic 1993 movie, Groundhog Day. The movie stars Bill Murray who plays an arrogant weatherman, Phil Connors, traveling to Pennsylvania to report on their annual Groundhog day ceremony. Phil quickly realizes he is trapped reliving that same day, February 2nd, no matter what he does. Despite his attempts to change his actions and escape Pennslyvania, Phil wakes up in the same place on the same day every morning.

The reason for the time loop is left unanswered, but the story’s central conflict is still Murray’s inability to escape it. The movie perfectly encapsulates “the rise and fall of a sympathetic figure”. Phil initially comes off as a pretty unlikeable character, and in a way, his circumstances almost seem like karmic justice for his obnoxiousness yet you cannot help but pity him for the tortuous and maddening effects of having to relive the same day, potentially forever. Phil explores the limits of his predicament by jumping off buildings, binge-eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, and duping people. He eventually learns to take advantage of his situation, for example, he takes piano lessons and plans the perfect date to impress a woman he likes. Rita, his love interest is ultimately what helps inspire him to change his character, in a way making the film a sort of romantic comedy.

By the end of the movie, Phil had learned to become a better, more compassionate person. The comedic and absurd nature by which it took him to reflect on his treatment of others is what makes the story powerful. The transformation of a rude and arrogant character into a compassionate one is not a new concept in the world of stories, but the way this movie told that story is what makes it particularly unique. The concept of a time loop allowed Phil to go through countless stages of philosophical outlooks on his life; egoism, his initial outlook, and his character at the beginning of the movie when he is rude to everyone around him.  Hedonism, when he recklessly engages in self-indulgence after realizing he gets to redo the day. Nihilism, when he becomes so depressed with his situation that he tries to kill himself. And altruism, when he wakes up on February 3rd after learning the importance of generosity and living in the moment. 

Ultimately, the movie has gone down in history as a classic for a reason, it tells the story of human greed and compassion without being heavy and depressing but rather in a light-hearted comedic manner that forces the viewers to imagine what they would have done in that situation themselves and simultaneously come to the conclusion that life is about the little things, and every day is important.

2 thoughts on “Groundhog Day and Bittersweet Lessons

  1. HANK S

    I think Groundhog Day is a really good example of a comedy that embraces change rather than a status quo given that it ends with the catharsis of the protagonist learning to be a better person, kind of like an Aristotelian tragedy but with a happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Isaac T.

    Never heard of the movie, sounds hysterical. Seems like Phil goes through character development that allows him to become a better person.


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