Monday, January 05, 2009

Groundhog Day gets its due

I consider Groundhog Day a classic movie (I have its movie poster on my TV room wall), and most people to whom I say that look at me like I'm crazy. However, author and professor Stanley Fish agrees with me, and he summarizes my reasons eloquently. He put Groundhog Day in his top ten American movies of all time. It's great to see this movie getting the due I've always thought it deserves.

Groundhog Day (1993), directed by Harold Ramis. Another Pygmalion story, but this time the material the sculptor works on is himself. Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a jaded, dyspeptic, arrogant, cynical and obnoxious TV weatherman who on Feb. 2 finds himself covering the emergence of the groundhog in Puxatawney, Pa. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds that it is not the next morning, but Groundhog Day all over again and all over again and all over again. (His own spring will be late.)

His responses to being trapped eternally in the same day include disbelief, despair, excess and hedonism before he settles down to make the best of the situation, which, it turns out, means making the best of himself — a self-help project that takes forever, but forever is what he has. (It is as if he were at once the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and the object of their tutelary attention.). By bits and pieces, fits and starts, he makes himself into the most popular fellow in town and wins the love of his producer, the beautiful Rita (a perfectly cast Andie MacDowell). The miracle is that as the movie becomes more serious, it becomes funnier. The comedy and the philosophy (how shall one live?) do not sit side by side, but inhabit each other in a unity that is incredibly satisfying. This is a “feel-good” movie in at least two senses of the word “good.”

See the other nine movies here.

No comments: