‘Tis the Season
One of the most celebrated traditions at the holidays is watching Holiday films.
We watch The Great Pumpkin for Halloween, Rudolph for Christmas. It’s become such a popular trend that The Hallmark Channel has dedicated an entire season to making as many of these holiday flicks as they can every year. (By the way, I wrote a Hallmark Christmas movie once; HALLMARK CALL ME).
For me, though, there is one classic that beats out all of them. That movie is Groundhog Day.
Yes, in my opinion, the 1992 Bill Murray comedy classic is the funniest, most heartfelt, original, beautifully shot, and cleverly written holiday movie of all time.
It’s about a weatherman named Phil Connors (Murray), who has reached that place in his life where he has given up. He’s miserable, lonely, and mean.
Part of his job as a weatherman is to travel to a small town called Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Groundhog Day and report on the town which celebrates the holiday. He doesn’t want to be bothered, and everybody else’s good nature makes him even more miserable.
Later, there’s a blizzard, which forces Phil to stay in Punxsutawney. The next morning it is once again Groundhog Day, and only he seems to notice. The rest of the movie is about Phil, waking up every day on Groundhog Day in his bed, and having to do the day again.
Phil experiences different stages. First confusion, having doctors see if there’s something wrong with his brain. Then he starts to have fun with it, pretending he knows beautiful women to be with them, outrunning police cars, stealing money, etc. Then he gets depressed, killing himself multiple times, but waking up again the next day fine. Finally, he begins to accept his situation and starts to become a nicer person.
So, why is this, out of every classic holiday film, to me the best?
A holiday story about something supernatural that changes a person, and allows them to see “what’s most important” has been done before. Scrooge, George Bailey, The Grinch. Even putting Bill Murray in that kind of role, is nothing new. A few years earlier, he played a Scrooge-like character in a movie called Scrooged.
So what is it about this one?
Well, aside from being hilarious, what makes me love this movie so much is the fact that it almost has nothing to do with a holiday film, and yet it still has all the heart and soul of one.
Groundhog Day could have easily been just another Christmas comedy that we’ve already seen. Or, it didn’t even have to be a holiday film. February 2nd isn’t a universal holiday that we all celebrate, so making a movie with that premise is already funny.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of “classical” holiday films. Elf, for example, is one of my favorite movies. But again, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you might not enjoy it as much. This, however, is a movie for everyone.
Another thing I think this movie does great, are it’s serious moments.
There’s one scene in particular where Phil is with his production manager, Rita, played by Andie McDowell. She is sleeping in the bed next to him, and he explains to her all of the reasons why he is falling in love with her. It’s the turning point of the movie. It’s the first time that Phil is seeing great things and wants them. He wants to change, and he has to, in order to deserve those things. It’s so powerful because we can all relate to wanting things so badly that it can drive us crazy, but we are just not ready, either emotionally or circumstantially.
It’s not a character changing after one incident and everything is great. It’s a long progression, and an emotional one, that says so much in such a short scene. You can feel Phil’s desperation and sadness, which is only helped by Murray’s great acting. It’s also the first time you root for him and want to see him succeed.
There is also another sequence involving an old man that I won’t get into, but it’s so powerful, and sticks with you no matter how many times you watch it.
Lastly, as I wrote earlier, it’s just a beautiful-looking film. The look has that holiday feel, with the snow, music, bright lights, and of course the famous idea of redemption, and that it’s never too late to fix your life, it’s a story that will never not be relevant.
I love this movie and recommend everybody sees it, which I’m sure many have, but if not, do yourself a favor, find it, and watch it.