Flicks

“Groundhog Day” Notes

In researching and writing my “Groundhog Day” piece, I had a number of points that I wanted to use. However, as the piece became longer than I expected, I cut points out as they didn’t fit with what I wanted to say or derailed the flow.  I thought about making the points in footnotes, but that didn’t work either. 

I thought the points were interesting though, so I decided to publish them separately.

  • My favorite day in “Groundhog Day” is the one where Phil convinces Rita about the loop. It’s a different day than any other day. In telling Rita, Phil is completely sincere without any ego or artifice.  He’s calm and serene and accepts his fate. The only joke he tells is where he mentions to Rita that the woman he previously seduced “make sounds like a chipmunk when she’s excited.”
    • In case you were wondering, this is what a chipmunk sounds like.
  • My favorite line in the movie is not by Phil, but instead by a one-off character. On one of the early days, Phil sees a psychiatrist to find out what’s wrong with him.  The shrink is a little overwhelmed by Phil’s problem. He explains that most of his work is with couples, families, and, the psychiatrist says with undisguised pride, “I have an alcoholic now.” 
  • Soon after the movie came out in 1993, the phrase “Groundhog Day” made its way into military jargon, in the same ways as the acronyms “SNAFU” and “FUBAR.”  Military personnel use the phrase to describe their often monotonous, repetitive days on deployment.
  • “Groundhog Day” wasn’t the first movie or story to feature a seemingly inescapable time loop.  The website tvtropes.org identifies a number of movies and television shows that had similar loops prior to Groundhog Day. The idea has been used more often since 1993 in movies like “Source Code” and “Edge of Tomorrow” and genre television shows like “The X-Files,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Supernatural,” “Doctor Who” and many others.
    • TVtropes.org is an interesting site, especially for writers or others interested in storytelling, as it provides “tropes” or storytelling devices commonly used in literature, movies, television and other works. “Groundhog Day Loop” is one such trope there as are “The Wound That Would Not Heal,” “Complaining About Rescues They Didn’t Like” and “Bar Brawl.” Beware though, if you visit it, you could lose hours there. 
  • I imagine that anyone who watches the movie will have the same question:  how long was Phil stuck on February 2nd? In the DVD commentary, Harold Ramis, the movie’s director and co-writer, estimates 10 years, but then later told a reporter that it had to be 30 or 40 years, noting that becoming proficient in things like piano and ice-sculpting takes years. In an interesting piece, the pop-culture website Whatculture, examines the various days, makes certain reasonable assumptions and estimates that Phil was in the loop for 33 years and 350 days.   
    • That’s a long time to be stuck in a loop, but it’s nothing compared to the loop in the “Doctor Who” episode “Heaven Sent” which apparently lasted two billion years.
  • “Groundhog Day” was the last collaboration between Murray and Ramis and marked the end of their long friendship.  Throughout his career, Murray has been notoriously known for being difficult to work with, to the point where he was dubbed the “Murricane” by John Belushi. Murray was going through marital troubles at the time “Groundhog Day” was filming and, apparently, was irrationally mean.  The main problem appeared to be that he would call Ramis at odd hours with demands for script changes.  After the movie ended, Murray and Ramis didn’t speak for 20 years, only reconciling when Ramis was in the last stages of the auto-immune disease that killed him.
    • Based upon comments made by Stephen Tobolowsky, the actor who played the break-out character Ned Ryerson, Murray’s antics actually benefitted the movie. Murray wanted to make the story more contemplative, while Ramis wanted to keep the movie a straight comedy. Tobolowsky noted that when he got the part of Ryeerson, the movie was a mediocre Bill Murray movie with no consequences for the main character.  After shooting started, the script changed and “it became not only a good movie, not only a great movie, but a classic.”
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