Probably one of the most inventive comedies ever made, Groundhog Day is a film that proves the best comedy is in the detail. Harold Ramis and Bill Murray come together once again to deliver a film of incredible humour, strong character and such uniqueness other films have been aping it for years since. A miserable bastard of man played by Murray is inexplicably forced to live out the same day over and over again, no matter what happens he always wakes up at 6:00 am on Groundhog day in a small town in Pennsylvania.
Ramis’s direction, Murray’s performance and the ingenious editing by Pembroke J. Herring craft this film’s great mix of comedy and drama. Over and over again, Phil Connors and the audience live through the same events again and again, allowing Ramis to create different scenarios every time and use audience expectation to great comedic effect. Connor’s realising that only he will have memories of days previous, he abuses this power at first and goes through a cycle of different emotions. Great sequences of crime, suicide, manipulation shows how selfish Phil is as a character and that it is likely his plight is punishment for who he is.
The character development of Phil Connors is what moves the film forward, every new day he lives through, he changes. He’s an unlikeable bastard but Bill Murray’s charm keeps the audience interested in him. He wants nothing but to escape from the town he’s in, he hates reporting on Groundhog Day believing it to be a stupid tradition. Then’s he trapped in the town he hates, on the exact day he hates the most, there is no escape – no matter what he does, he will always wake up 6:00 am on Groundhog day. Over time, he naturally begins to change, coming to realisations what type of person he is. The story has him eventually begin to pursue Rita, Phil’s producer from the new channel who traveled with him to the town of Punxsutawney.
The love story between the two can seem disturbed at first, Phil spends every day learning new things about her in order to impress and woo her. At first it may just seem like a challenge for him in his endless purgatory but over time develops real feelings for her. Not just her but for every person in the town, Phil discovers how rewarding life can be when he accepts people into his life, when he can be so much more than what he is. He stops using personal information to deceive her, he begins to work on transforming himself into a far better person.
Groundhog Day is such an iconic piece of cinema, the comedy is in the detail and the payoffs for every piece of the story works so well. You can watch it over and over and the comedy still holds up to this day, you discover new things about it that make it even better than the last. You’re never given a reason of why Phil is trapped and you don’t need one, the film isn’t about answers, its about a man discovering who he really is.