Rewatching Groundhog Day in 2021

Warning: this post contains spoilers. I know the film is nearly 30 years old but I’m a conscientious kinda guy.

2nd February is Groundhog Day, a North American tradition derived where a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil comes out of its burrow and declares the season for the next six weeks:

  • If it sees its shadow, there’ll be winter for six more weeks
  • If it doesn’t see its shadow, spring will arrive early

By the way, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted 6 more weeks of winter this year.

If you’re wondering how accurate Punxsutawney Phil is, here’s what Live Science says:

Not very, it turns out […] According to the Groundhog Club’s records, the various incarnations of Punxsutawney Phil have predicted 103 forecasts of more winter and 20 early springs (including this year). (There are nine years without any records, and even the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, which keeps track of these things, doesn’t know what happened to Phil during those years.) Data from the Stormfax Almanac’s data shows that Phil’s six-week prognostications have been correct about 39 percent of the time.

But when most people talk about Groundhog Day, they’re referencing the film starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. In it, Phil Connors (Murray) is a weatherman who visits Punxsutawney for the Groundhog Day festivities only to find himself trapped in the town—and the same day—reliving it over and over.

It’s a brilliant film and its cultural impact has travelled as far as Tibet and the Buddhist monks who live there. I’ve seen it many times but decided to watch it today since it’s 2nd February after all. Rather than write a film review (I’ve given up review writing and I’m no Roger Ebert), here are some of my napkin thoughts as I watched it through today:

  • Firstly, I found it on Prime Video and it was in 4K UHD which meant I could take advantage of my new 4K UHD lockdown TV. It was also the first time I’d seen it in this quality.
  • This is a very 2020 film. A white man relives the same day over and over, taunts the police, gets arrested without violence and jailed, and wakes up in his own bed without charges.
    • He also does a PUA impression to get with a random woman he liked the look of. And he stole money and got away with it (naturally).
  • He had a thing for Andie McDowell’s character, Rita, from the moment he saw her (which he mentioned at the end) which is nice to see in a movie rather than it being forced.
  • It was also nice to see an egotist work through his flaws and become a better person.
  • The Jeopardy scene was hauntingly brilliant (RIP Alex Trebeck).
  • Phil couldn’t get what he wanted and soon descended into depression which had fatal consequences (on multiple occasions).
  • It’s interesting that the scene where Phil believes he’s a god (“not the God”) comes after everything rather than at the beginning where it could have been attributed to his egotism.
  • The scene where Phil declares his love for Rita while she’s asleep is so beautiful and I always stop and really listen to it.
    • For the first time, I started to think that maybe Rita was some kind of guardian angel or spirit to Phil that started his journey towards nirvana? He alluded to that himself in his declaration.
    • It always felt like Rita knew a bit more than someone who wasn’t in the same time loop; as if she had grown to love Phil too but over more than just a single day but without realising why? It’s a threadbare theory.
  • The final act where Phil becomes more selfless and wants to better himself is endearing.
  • The bit where he tried to save the old homeless man was hard to watch. It was a reminder that, as his nurse said, “sometimes people just die”. It stung more than ever given how badly older people have been treated during the COVID-19 pandemic, homeless or otherwise.
  • It felt like he knew the last day was his last but even if it wasn’t, he was at peace and comfortable with his being (which probably unlocked him from the time loop)
  • Larry’s auction spin is one of the best highlights of the movie.
  • Imagine living the same day over and over, possibly for years, trying to get with the woman of your dreams and waking up the next day to find her next to you.
  • I don’t know if I’d live in Punxsutawney.

See also: Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day, explained

(Image courtesy of Eddie~S on Flickr; shared using the CC BY 2.0 licence)

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