Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Groundhog Day: A perfect film

Holiday movies are lame. They rarely evolve past kiddie movies or movies about visiting in-laws for dinner. You see, the problem lies in the writing. Most people try too hard to make a movie with a holiday theme, leaving a soulless, empty shell of cinema. The storyline is an afterthought to the holiday concept. By following the cliches we're all used to, picking a date on a map and choosing a genre a mediocre movie gets made to get some quick money.

Valentine's Day plus horror equals this mess.

This is where the film Groundhog Day comes in. It's not a holiday movie, it's a movie that happens to take place during a holiday. Not only is there a tangible plot to be told, but it's original in its telling. The reason why Groundhog Day is so beloved is because it doesn't settle on being a mediocre holiday movie. Then again, it helps that nobody really cares about Groundhog's Day to begin with. Aside from some dudes in top hats that live in Pennsylvania, it's one of the most meaningless, esoteric holidays there is. Not being hampered by the massive iconography that bogs down Christmas movies, Groundhog Day was allowed to become its own film.

I'd buy a Bill Murray themed clock.

The premise is both simple and genius. A prickly weatherman is inexplicably forced to repeat the same day ad nauseam, and by living this hellish day over and over he becomes a better person. The movie is more than its greeting card message though, all thanks to the inherent likability of Bill Murray. Yes, he is a bastard but he is our lovable bastard. He may say horrible things but we know he doesn't mean it. Which is good that Murray is so awesome because the whole movie hinges on his performance. Bouncing between joy, desperation, depression and finally acceptance; Murray shows a man doomed to listen to Sonny and Cher every morning.

The problem with the premise is the danger of the film being as repetitive as the days Murray is stuck it. Harold Ramis expertly frames the story and puts us on the journey with Murray. We are with him when he first realizes his fate, when he tries to take advantage of it, and finally when he desperately tries and escape it. Kudos must also go to the supporting cast, including Stephen Tobolowsky (you don't recognize the name just look him up. he's probably in a movie you've seen before), Chris Elliott and Andie Macdowell's curly hair.

So damn curly.

Groundhog Day is a lot of things. It's a comedy in the same vein as Murray's early work, but it also has the deeper meaning of his later work. Between the gags we have a desperate man in need of some change in his life. While this is the dramatic example of living the same day repeatedly, I am sure many people can identify with the monotony. Just because the calendar day changes doesn't make the day any different. It's a feel good movie that doesn't cater towards melodrama. It's a movie that takes a gimmick and makes it into something more, something real. This is why I consider Groundhog Day a new classic. There are not many movies I would identify as new classics, but Groundhog Day just has so much damn charm it's irresistible. Whenever you see it on TBS you can't help but smile, even though you know as well as Murray's character does where the pothole is. Even after seeing it 20 times you still watch it because it's so damn good.

1 comment:

  1. The cinematography is great in that film, but I don't like the love scene at the end.