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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

While not quite on our all-time top-ten list, we love the movie "Groundhog Day." For those of you who have never seen the film--where the hell have you been? In this romantic-comedy-fantasy, Bill Murray plays Phil, a self-absorbed local TV weatherman who gets snowed in in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, after covering the eponymous holiday's rodent-related festivities. He awakes the next morning and finds that it is STILL Groundhog Day--and so is the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. . . . Phil is the only one aware that time seems to have stopped, and that the day's events are repeating endlessly. Through the course of the movie, Phil's reactions to his predicament approximate the five stages of grief, culminating in several suicide attempts--after which he STILL finds himself once more back in bed, on Groundhog Day, awaking to the clock-radio playing "I Got You Babe." Only after he accepts his situation--realizing that this infinite loop allows him to remake himself infinitely--does he achieve his greatest human potential--and is he able to break free.

The movie is beloved by many and for good reason. The script is charming, the pacing is brisk, and Bill Murray is perfect. Phil, at first, is a typical Murray character: sarcastic, arrogant, world-weary. By the end, though, he is. . . well, still world-weary, but we see his joy when he realizes that his life will, literally, go on, and we share that joy.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, many other creative types have flattered "Groundhog Day." The plot of being trapped in an infinite temporal loop was subsequently used in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "The X-Files," and "Stargate: SG-1" (to name only those that occur to us off the top of our head).

(DIGRESSION: While not strictly a "Groundhog Day" reference, we are reminded of a moment in "Futurama." The main character, Fry, is in love with a Lucy Liu-robot. At one point, they are snuggling, and "conversing": "I love YOU more." "No, I love YOU more." "I love YOU more." Etc. Observing this, the professor comments: "Oh, my. SHE's stuck in a loop, and HE's an idiot." EOD.)

We think the appeal of the movie has to do with the fact that it addresses one of the fundamental tragedies of humanity. We strive for perfection. We wish for perfection. But we cannot ever achieve it because we are subject to the limitations of both time and our own moral shortcomings. The movie is uplifting in its message that, if we only devote ourselves to making the most of our time, we can achieve greatness. And if our time were infinite, we could achieve absolutely anything.

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