This is my entry in the Year After Year Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog
"Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today!" -Phil Connors
What if tomorrow never came? How would you cope with it? What if you woke up this morning, and you were reliving the same events, over and over and over and over again?
Sorry, you can't pick the best day of your life and just relive those events for eternity (otherwise I'd opt for Nov. 15, 1985 and just endlessly go to the Cowboys-Bears game that was played that day, and laugh uproariously as the Cowboys get shellacked by the Bears 44-0. But even that would get boring after a year or two.)
No, it's just a random day in your life. And to top it off, you are stuck in a town you don't particularly like. And the people in the town are celebrating a holiday that you just can't stand. What if you had to live on that day for the rest of eternity. Not just the rest of your life, because you aren't going to grow older. If you woke up the day before your 40th birthday this morning, tomorrow it would still be the day before your 40th birthday and on and on forever.
This is the concept that Danny Rubin came up with one day while trying to come up with a script idea that could get his foot in the door in Hollywood. He first had the day established as just a day in late January, but then hit on the idea of establishing the event that transformed Phil Connors' life as February 2, Groundhog Day. This idea had some appeal because if it actually did get filmed it would have it's own annual tradition already set in, much like Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Carol have become an annual tradition on another holiday
Several changes occurred from the first draft of the script to the final finished film. First, in the original draft, we would have seen the beginning of the movie as Phil is already trapped in the endless time loop in the middle of the time loop with no indication of why he has been subjected to the time loop. After studios balked at this idea (although director Harold Ramis liked the concept), Rubin added a scene where Phil broke up with his current girlfriend who cursed him with a spell. But Rubin was never really satisfied with this.
Eventually we got the finished script that we can see today. One notably trivia piece is that both Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton were approached to play the role of Phil Connors. Hanks didn't think he could pull off the asshole Phil convincingly enough because he thought his audience would expect him to be nice, and Keaton just didn't understand the concept. (He has later admitted he regretted the decision).
By the way: The movie was actually filmed in Illinois. It turns out that the real Punxutawney didn't have the right feel for those involved in producing the movie and so the town of Woodstock, Illinois substitutes for the legendary town.
So how long does Phil live in this endless loop? Estimates have ranged from 10-10,000 years. In order for Phil to go from being confused to desperate to complacent in his predicament, and in order for him to eventually become a consummate artist and musician (which he does by the end of the movie), a good estimate is somewhere around 34 years, according to a website I looked at.
Groundhog Day (1993):
The movie establishes what a jerk Phil Connors (Bill Murray). a weatherman on a Pittsburgh TV station, is early on. He is rude and sarcastic to just about everyone, including his news broadcast co-host, his cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) and his new producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell). Phil is scheduled to go on a remote to Punxutawney to cover the groundhog celebration and his distaste for it is evident.
Connors is set up in a bed and breakfast house because he refuses to stay in the local hotel and wakes up to the fading sound of the Sonny & Cher song "I Got You, Babe", and a pair of D.J.s telling him to put on his booties because "Its COLD out there!" He goes down to the groundhog celebration, running into several recurring characters in the process, including the overly enthusiastic Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky), with whom Phil had gone to high school.
At the groundhog shindig, Connors continues his disgruntled demeanor, causing both Rita and Larry to confer that he is a "prima donna". They leave Punxutawney to return to Pittsburgh, but the blizzard that Phil had confidently claimed would bypass Pittsburgh hits, forcing them to return to Punxutawney. Connors reclaims his room at the B&B and goes off to sleep.
Upon awakening, the first indication that something is amiss is that the radio wakes him with the same fade out from "I Got You, Babe" and the same D.J.s telling him "It's COLD out there!" Unfortunately for Phil this is the beginning of a nightmare, because he seems to be stuck in repeating the same day he had just lived through yesterday.
And it's not over yet. Because the next day he wakes up again to the same radio and meeting the same people. Phil doesn't really know how to react to this, but eventually he begins to try to explain to Rita what seems to be happening to him. Of course, she thinks he's nuts or at least just overworked because neither she nor anyone else for that matter is aware of the time loop.
Eventually Phil starts to be Phil and use the inconvenience to his own advantage. At one point he takes advantage of a lapse of attention to steal a bag of money from an armored truck. He finds an attractive woman and learns a few details about her so that during the next cycle he can seduce her. But even this becomes boring after a while. He then goes through a period where he just wants to end it all. But even suicide is not an option, because the next morning he still finds himself waking up to those same fading strains of "I Got You, Babe".
Over and over again Phil tries to find ways to improve upon his lot. His driving passion becomes one to get Rita in bed, and he spends several episodes gradually learning things about her in order to get her to fall in love with him. But Phil is still learning how to be a decent human being and his lessons don't seem to be cracking through that thick skull.
Phil finally starts to get the idea that he can use the situation to improve himself and learns how to play the piano and become an expert at ice sculpture, among other things. And finally, he learns to be a decent human being. But will it be enough to get him out of the time loop?
The movie has some great comedic moments, but it works better as a sort of bizarre romantic comedy. Phil's efforts to get into Rita's panties transform from just crude sexual desire to an honest effort to get her to love him for whom he is (or for whom he has become through the endless time loop).
Well folks, its time to fire up the old Plymouth again (Say, haven't I said that before...?) Drive safely, folks. (That, too...? Hmmm.)