Groundhog Day is narrative bliss – one of the truly superior screenplays of the entire 1990s. Harold Ramis is no visual master behind the camera but his and Danny Rubin’s screenplay combined with Bill Murray’s work makes for transcendent cinematic art. It is rewatchable for the famous repetition (from Sunny and Cher on) and variation- the formal skeleton narrative splintering.
I am not the first person to mention this but it’s part of the cultural language now- Groundhog Day translates to déjà vu.
Ambivalent about the big broad “Weather Man” song opening performed by Delbert McClinton. The entire original music score from George Fenton is sadly a missed opportunity.
It is the perfect vehicle for Murray and amongst his greatest achievements. His Phil Connors is pure ego and this is a virtuoso comic performance again amongst the best of the entire 1990s. He is funny but smug- very superior. He is told “try it again without the sarcasm.”. Phil is clearly unhappy. He is called a “primadonna” and “a glass half-empty kind of guy” along with “egocentric” being his defining characteristic. It is not quite a one-man show though. Andie MacDowell’s southern charm is on full display. Character actor Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned may be the most memorable of the supporting cast- but each member of the ensemble excels here.
It owes a lot to Capra (it goes to the dark side like It’s a Wonderful Life with the suicide montage) and the big city skeptic (Murray’s Phil Connors is cynical as hell here) vs. rural paradise of Jefferson Davis and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. If half the lineage is Capra- the other half is Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”
Certainly, it is a film worthy all the extensive study that has been bestowed upon it (small little details in the mise-en-scene like the clocks stopped in the diner). Many studies and papers by people much smarter than me have justifiably been written on the film’s meanings and philosophies.
Again- Ramis will not go down as an all-time great director by any stretch, but this is the talented writer of broader comedies like Animal House, Ghostbusters and Caddyshack.
Great timing for a new movie posting, I’m watching this tonight for the first time
A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one
“Groundhog Day is narrative bliss – one of the truly superior screenplays of the entire 1990s. Harold Ramis is no visual master behind the camera but his and Danny Rubin’s screenplay combined with Bill Murray’s work makes for transcendent cinematic art.”
Agreed on this, very impressive narrative and performances for sure. I used to think Bill Murray was quite overrated by a lot of people but between this, Rushmore (1998) and a somewhat recent re-watch of Lost in Translation (2003) I have changed my mind although I still probably have him lower than most casual movie fans and cinephiles but the tides are turning. I came across an intereting article on Murray from Tarantino’s new book “Cinema Speculation” which I still need to read. This quote is from the article (link below)
“Tarantino explained that Murray’s onscreen persona as a sarcastic nihilist was completely thrown out when it came to the third act of Murray’s comedies, landing instead with a faux redemption arc for the actor.”
This quote is from Tarantino himself:
“Film critics always preferred Bill Murray to Chevy Chase. Yet, more often than not, Chase remained the same sarcastic aloof asshole at the film’s end he was at the beginning. Or at least his conversion wasn’t the whole point of the movie as it was in ‘Scrooged’ and ‘Groundhog Day.”
@James Trapp – I saw the Bill Murray quotes from QT. I love me some QT – but he is off here.