Movie Review | Groundhog Day
Movie summary: A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again. (IMDb)
This isn't really going to be a review so much as a love-in, because I do completely love this film and practically everything about it. Hell, the 'low point' is arguably the first few minutes and how very typical it feels for a substance-free Nineties comedy - but even then it's never anything less than 'good' and only continues to get better and better from that point on.
Much like Bill Murray's character experiences, there's so much to be gained from repeating yourself and watching Groundhog Day all over again from the start. And, similarly to the character, I have done so many, many times and am yet to grow tired of watching this movie. No joking, writing this post right now is making me want to put it on again at least in the background.
Oh, and the reason I keep referring to Murray's character, Phil Connors, without naming him is part of my way of praising Murray's performance. Phil is trapped in an extremely weird situation that occurs at random and for no apparent reason, but Murray's performance is so good that it makes you forget all about it - you don't care why it's happening, you just enjoy being along for the ride.
It helps that the role feels so natural for Murray. Not once does he ever feel like anything other than a real, and very flawed, human being. You know you're watching a fantastical movie that's not even telling its story like a documentary, but Phil Connors feels like a living, breathing person that you could easily run into at any time.
Even the changes his character makes over the course of the movie - some of which are pretty extreme - never feel unrealistic or out of the ordinary. Murray's performance and the story's pacing are both pitched so perfectly that every change feels like the natural ebb and flow of a man growing and changing for the better over a believable amount of time.
While Murray's performance is truly one for the ages, it would be unfair to not praise the supporting cast which includes his co-workers, Larry (Chris Elliott) and Rita (Andie MacDowell). This might sound like criticism, but neither of them gives a 'great' performance - but what I mean by saying that, is that neither of them give what feels like a performance. They both feel like real people too.
Larry is probably the most 'regular' comedy role of the trio, but he never feels cartoonish or out of place. He has a few personality quirks, aided by Elliott giving him a misplaced sense of self-confidence that makes him the most obviously 'funny' character, but it's never stupid or mean - like Phil, Larry feels like another type of guy you could easily meet in any number of variations on a single given day.
Then there's MacDowell, who I genuinely think gets a little over-looked for her part in proceedings. Yes, I know I've gushed about Murray at length already, but he gets the lion's share of the screen-time so I think that's only fair. Phil gets to grow and change over the length of a movie - MacDowell sells us on Rita changing in a single day.
From the start, she's portrayed as open and understanding, while also willing to do the best she can to help those around her. MacDowell convinces you so well that Rita is such a genuinely good, thoughtful person that once Phil's journey is 'complete', where she ends up seems like a perfect fit for her character. And this is with the movie reminding you over and over again that she only experiences the day once!
Seriously, how good does an actress need to be that the story is practically yelling at the audience to remember that she doesn't have the length of time to change like Phil does, but you totally accept it without a second thought anyway? Part of it is due to Murray's magnificence and part of it is due to just how well-written Rita is, but MacDowell's 'non-performance' performance seals the deal.
The only real criticism I could manage to scrape up after watching Groundhog Day ahead of writing this post is that I don't think it would be so warmly welcomed in today's movie-watching landscape. With #MeToo so prominent, I imagine there'd be a lot written about how Phil manipulates the women of the town to get them into bed - and how he ultimately 'triumphs' in the end.
A serial user of women walking away with his perfect match at the end? I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people objected to that no matter how much Phil proves he has changed by the end of the movie. And, thanks to the nature of the story repeating, it technically never happened to the women in question even if Phil did profit from the situation.
Also, it has to be said that there are multiple scenes of suicide in Groundhog Day that, while serious in character and tone, still come across as intending to be funny in how they play out. Again, this is something that could provoke a backlash now that it didn't at the time. Would it deserve it? I don't think so, as that part of the film is also the hinge on which the story swings back up into positivity, but I also wouldn't begrudge anyone who find those particular scenes a little hard to watch.
Despite these more modern real world issues, they aren't enough for me to stop loving this movie. The cast, the script and the story are simply too good to ignore - especially Murray. This might be viewed by most as simply a comedy, but Murray's performance contains so much depth and raw emotion that it has to be seen multiple times to really be appreciated.
Groundhog Day is an all-time classic for me, although some people now may have issues with how certain situations are depicted. Regardless, this is Bill Murray's finest performance of his career - which is really saying something - and one you'll be happy to watch over and over... and over again.
Why a 10/10? Because I utterly, utterly adore this film and can watch it multiple times in close proximity and still not be bored of it. There's always something new to focus on each time, or something to think about that you hadn't while watching the movie before. Or simply just to appreciate Bill Murray's performance as genuinely one of the best in comedy history.