Saturday, February 02, 2013
WHY GROUNDHOG DAY WORKS
This story (written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis), about a conceited weatherman who relives the same day over and over until he gets it right, works for the same reason A Christmas Carol works. Both are stories of redemption. That's right. I'm putting Rubin and Ramis in the same class as Charles Dickens, and I suspect Dickens had a strong influence on their writing.
Groundhog Day is Phil Connor's story. Much like Scrooge, Phil scorns tradition and has little compassion. He's an insufferable jerk.
(spoiler alert!) At first he struggles with his curse of reliving the same day, even resorting to several suicide attempts. He uses what he learns about people to manipulate them and to score points with Rita.
When Rita suggests he consider the curse a gift, he starts to take advantage of reliving the same day as an opportunity to improve himself. He helps others avoid calamities he witnesses, and he learns ice sculpting and piano playing. Most of all, he learns to put others' needs first. We see the homeless man on the sidewalk Phil ignores later sitting at a lunch counter with Phil, eating hot soup. We all cheer at the reformed Phil, the man Rita can love. And his love for her finally breaks the spell.
If you've missed this movie, watch it. It's twenty years old but timeless.
Happy Groundhog Day!