Sunday, July 13, 2014

Deja Vu

Groundhog Day
Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Stephen Tobolowsky, Chris Elliot
Released: February 12, 1993

Before I get into my review, I just had to mention that I saw Edge of Tomorrow about a month ago, which is like a sci-fi Groundhog Day where Tom Cruise lives the same day over and over again to figure out how to win the war against aliens. His co-star, Emily Blunt, plays a character named Rita, which is Andie MacDowell's character's name in Groundhog Day. Now it had been awhile since I last saw Groundhog Day, so I didn't remember her name in the movie, but I was listening to a podcast movie review of Edge of Tomorrow and one of the hosts mentioned that Blunt's character was named Rita as a shoutout to Groundhog Day which I thought was really cool. It's just too bad I couldn't appreciate that while I was watching the movie! And if you want to go deeper, Tom Cruise's character's name is William, which can be shortened to Bill, which rhymes with Phil, which is Bill Murray's character's name....except that Cruise goes by Cage, his character's last name.

Edge of Tomorrow is just one of many narratives where the same day is repeated over and over. I'm sure Groundhog Day wasn't the first to do that plot line, but I'm willing to bet it's the most famous. And whenever someone mentions Groundhog Day, you think of the movie, not the actual holiday which is probably the stupidest holiday ever. (Sorry Groundhog Day fans!) I can never remember if it's six more weeks of winter if the groundhog sees his shadow or not...and let's be honest...there's ALWAYS at least six more weeks (if not more!) of winter when it's only February 2nd...duh! 

So we all know the basic plot: Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors is sent to Punxsutawney, PA, home of Groundhog Day and the actual groundhog (also named Phil) who does the predicting. He goes with his producer, Rita, and cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliot). Phil thinks the job is beneath him and just wants to get it over with and go home. Only he can't because they get stranded there when a blizzard hits. The next morning, he wakes up to the same song playing from the previous morning ("I Got You, Babe", the Sonny and Cher classic) and thinks the radio station accidentally put on the broadcast from yesterday, but when he looks out the window, there is no snow and he  has the same interactions with the same people from yesterday. There's a funny scene when he asks a woman where everyone is going and she says, "The Groundhog Day festival" and he says, "Is Groundhog Day everyday now?" He then repeats the same day over and over for who knows how long. Another funny exchange is when he asks the woman who works at the inn he's staying at if she ever has deja vu and she tells him she'll check with the kitchen.

At first, understandably, he is annoyed and confused, but then he just learns to accept it because there's nothing he can do about it. He learns small details to watch out for. The first few days, he keeps stepping into a deep puddle when he's crossing the street, then remembers it's there and jumps over it. 

He goes through different phases of how he reacts to his time loop. He feels invincible because whatever he does, will be erased when he starts anew the next "day". He recklessly drives a car and ends up in jail, only to wake up in his B&B room, he steals money and goes shopping, he eats a bunch of fattening food and desserts just because he can. (Hey, why not!) He asks an attractive woman where she went to school and what her English teacher's name was and the next day pretends to be an old classmate and sleeps with her and doesn't have to worry about her calling him the next "day" because she won't remember him.

Then he starts being interested in Rita and takes her out to a fancy dinner. She tells him she studied French poetry in college and he comments how useless that was, then the next "day", he takes her out again and this time when she tells him what she studied, he fluently says something in French, impressing her very much. They have a near perfect evening until the end when she suspects that he's only interested in sleeping with her and storms off. He tries to repeat this perfect day over and over, but to no avail and ends up getting slapped by her many times in a montage. 

This makes him depressed and he's tired of being in his constant time loop, so he decides to kill himself...many times. He runs his car off a cliff, he jumps from a building, he electrocutes himself...only to find himself waking up in the same bed again each morning. 

He then goes into an almost existential phase when he gives a homeless man money who's been there since day one and he's always ignored. He later finds the man passed out on the sidewalk and takes him to the hospital where the nurse tells him he's passed away. The next few times, he tries to help the man by giving him lots to eat, but whatever he does, the man still dies because that was his time and Phil no longer feels like he's in control of everything. 

One of the most memorable characters and sequence of events is when he meets an old classmate, Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) who is an annoying insurance salesman. They filmed the five or six scenes one right after the other so they would have the same cars in the background. It's fun and interesting to see how Phil reacts to Ned each time. The very first time, before the time loop begins, he's annoyed and wants to get away from him. The first few times after the time loop, he's still annoyed and tries to avoid him, but whatever he does, Ned still finds him. He punches him one time, he becomes the annoying one and scares Ned off, then towards the end, he befriends Ned and gives him a hug and buys insurance from him. 

Of course when Phil realizes what's important in life (and wins Rita's heart), he is freed from his repeating day. I'm sure everyone, after seeing this film, has pondered what would they do if they were in a situation like Phil's. It would drive me crazy if I was repeating the same day over and over again, but on the other hand, it would be a great way to read more books and watch more movies and just do and learn more things. (Phil learns French, how to play the piano, and reads some classic books). It would be nice to have more time to do things and not have to worry about a deadline. And if you screwed up on something, it would disappear the next day when you would get a clean slate. On the other hand, any relationships you might make would not last as the person(s) would not remember you the next day. I would definitely not want to be stuck in a small town with no way to escape like Phil was because, for one thing, I would miss my cat!, and I would rather just be home where I have everything I need and can go forever repeating the same day! Well, maybe not forever! 

I started this by bringing up Edge of Tomorrow, so I'll end with another thought concerning it. Groundhog Day will always be the go-to repeating-the-same-day movie and I like it better than Tomorrow, although that was a good movie, but there is something I loved about Tomorrow that didn't happen in Groundhog Day and made the movie a little different: there were several times where the audience would be in a new scene with Cruise and Blunt and you figured this was their first time there too, but then you learned that they had already been in that situation several times before. I thought that was nicely done and always kept me wondering. Just add Run, Lola, Run (although her repetition only lasts a mere three times!) and you have the perfect trifecta of time loop movies.

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