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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Groundhog Day": ring in the New Year with a movie that takes place in perpetual February

Yes. I am aware Groundhog Day is in February, and New Year's Eve/Day spans December and January. No need to be a wise-ass here, unless we're talking about "2012".

There are important similarities between the two - both holidays are completely arbitrary, they are coupled with unbearable cold north of the Mason-Dixon, and depending what circles you roll with, they are great excuses for excessive drinking.

Groundhog Day follows Bill Murray as a cynical Pittsburgh weatherman who travels to Punxsutawney with new producer Andie MacDowell to cover the ceremony of Punxsutawney Phil looking for his shadow on February 2nd. Due to inclement weather, they have to spend the night in Pux Punksa the town, and when Bill wakes, it's once again February 2nd. It's not clear why this is happening, or for how long he'll continue to be trapped in the day-long loop. After going through a suicidal spell, a bout of depression, and exploring the material benefits to knowing the exact second when a bag of money will be left unattended, Murray makes it his mission to have the perfect day with MacDowell, as she may be everything he's ever wanted.

Herein lies the moral that made me think of Groundhog Day on the eve of New Year's Eve. Murray has seemingly unlimited chances to get every detail of his day with MacDowell right, from ordering her cocktail of choice to mastering jazz piano. It's a long road for Murray with multiple pitfalls. The most important one is in the following scene, when Murray is just going through the motions of what was, on previous evenings, a spontaneous and romantic rolling of a snowman.


New Year's is as good a time as any to catalog and reflect upon our recent successes and failings, but that reflection is meaningless without action. We have to learn from our shortcomings so we don't commit the same errors again (Murray eventually does), and likewise learn from our successes and make those right decisions again (Murray does this also). And, sometimes, as illustrated by a subplot with a homeless man, we must see that there are some things we simply cannot change. Regardless of the specifics of our own situation, we can't make the mistake Murray did on that one night with MacDowell and just go through the motions. To paraphrase the AA prayer, we must continually find the strength to change the things we can, accept the things we cannot, and seek the wisdom to know the difference. We don't get unlimited mulligans like Murray does, but luckily for us, life is more than two hours long.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here's hoping your next twelve months are filled with success, happiness, wisdom, and quality filmed entertainment.



TOO MUCH: The sequence of Murray perfecting his evening with MacDowell could have been trimmed, as could his "losing-his-mind" montage.

COULD HAVE USED MORE: Dare I say it, Chris Elliott as Murray's camerman could have had a few more quips.

FILM SNOB NOTE: Most of the film, which takes place in western Pennsylvania, was filmed in Woodstock, IL.

IHYFM RATING: THREE AND A HALF out of FIVE MEHS. It's about fifteen minutes too long, but still one of Harold Ramis' better comedies with a warm and fuzzy ending.

IF YOU SAID THIS WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, I'D THINK: Familiarity is comfort for you. Or you'd rather watch Bill Murray as an asshole romantic comedy lead instead of an asshole sci-fi comedy lead, or an asshole dramedy lead, or a charming mental patient.

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