Groundhog Day falls under my rewatch category–the films I used to love (or like), but haven’t seen in five or six years. These films are ones that I saw multiple times, back when I used to see things multiple times. I think that practice disappeared when I discovered AMC in 1996 or so.
I was a little worried. I’ve seen Multiplicity, which I never thought was as good, more recently than not and it had me doubting the power of Harold Ramis. I hadn’t checked until now, but Movielens predicts a three and a half for Groundhog Day, which is damn close. Groundhog Day wasn’t just a pleasant surprise, it was a pleasant experience. I could skim over the philosophy of the film, its thesis, but imagine if Frank Capra had made a movie with Humphrey Bogart. It probably would have been close to Groundhog Day (except Bogart would have worked for a newspaper). I’ve never used the term Capraesque and haven’t particularly liked the usage of it I have read, but I think Groundhog Day is definitely Capraesque. I think he would have appreciated its thesis.
The film’s structure kept impressing me and I kept wondering where I was on time–a similar experience to Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Groundhog Day is particularly nice in its intensity, it never shows or tells too much, just enough to inform the viewer and move the story along. The film’s flow is very important and there are a few mistakes–the most glaring is Chris Elliot’s character becoming a buffoon, which the mean Bill Murray always thought he was anyway. I remembered, watching it, that I’d made that observation before.
Groundhog Day Murray is probably Murray at his best, or near it. While he’s developed into a good dramatic actor, there’s an air of desperation that he hasn’t been able to shake since Rushmore. With the possible exception of The Royal Tenenbaums, it’s impossible to ignore it–it’s a sign on his back that says “I Want an Oscar.” Groundhog Day is before any such aspiration and it’s a sad reminder of how nice it was not to have to see it.
Directed by Harold Ramis; screenplay by Danny Rubin and Ramis, based on a story by Rubin; director of photography, John Bailey; edited by Pembroke J. Herring; music by George Fenton; production designer, David Nichols; produced by Trevor Albert and Ramis; released by Columbia Pictures.
Starring Bill Murray (Phil Connors), Andie MacDowell (Rita), Chris Elliott (Larry), Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson), Brian Doyle-Murray (Buster Green), Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor), Angela Paton (Mrs. Lancaster), Rick Ducommun (Gus), Rick Overton (Ralph), Robin Duke (Doris, the waitress), Carol Bivins (Anchorwoman) and Willie Garson (Kenny).