Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Groundhog Day (1993)


     Earlier last month, something happened on my school’s campus that affected a lot of us. One of our students, after playing a game of rugby outside and suffering an asthma attack, passed away suddenly, and a lot of us (especially guys like me who were in his dorm) were taken aback. Personally, I had seen the guy the night before and had talked to him for a very short amount of time, and I never thought for a second that he’d be gone the next day. It really made me think about how we need to make every day count and be a blessing to whoever we come across everyday.

     Perhaps that is the moral of “Groundhog Day”, which takes that idea in a much lighter direction, which makes for an incredibly funny, incredibly entertaining, and often very moving film. Bill Murray plays a Pittsburgh weatherman named Phil Connors, one of the most sarcastic and self-centered people anyone might have to deal with. In early February, he and two other news workers, Rita (Andie MacDowell) and Larry (Chris Elliott), travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the town’s most celebrated event: the Groundhog Day celebration, where Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog comes out to see or not see his shadow. However, this is the last place Phil Connors wants to be, declaring this is the last time he will cover Groundhog Day before leaving the news station. After a long, hectic day, Phil goes back to his motel room in Punxsutawney.

     But the next morning, Phil wakes up with déjà vu. The radio, just like the morning before, announces it’s Groundhog Day, and Phil goes to work the same way he did yesterday. It seems he is once again living in Groundhog Day. And he goes through the day, and wakes up the next morning to find it’s February 2 again. And he starts thinking: I’m living the same day over and over again. That means I can do whatever I want, and the next day I won’t have to face the consequences.

     So at first, Phil takes advantage of this. He meets a beautiful woman and basically has a one-night stand. He spends money on whatever he wants, since the next day he’ll have the same amount of money. He even goes driving half-drunk one night with some other guys, destroys a bunch of property, and gets thrown in jail. But at 6:00 A.M. the next morning, he wakes up in his bed in Punxsutawney at the start of a new Groundhog Day.

     Eventually, though, Phil gets tired of doing whatever he wants. Now he just wants this day to be over. So he repeatedly attempts suicide: driving over a cliff, jumping off a building, anything to get this curse over with. But even when he is dead, he wakes up to Groundhog Day. And one day, having coffee with Rita, he tells her what’s he experiencing. And amazed as she is, the two of them start to hit it off. It takes Phil several days of doing this to actually have a successful date with her, but soon he starts falling for her.

     But one night, Phil sees a homeless man on the street. He has seen this man every “day” in the morning on his way to work, but tonight he takes him to a shelter where he can be warm. But once he takes the man there, he finds out he is dead. He has been dying all this time. So the next day, another Groundhog Day, Phil takes the man to a diner to have a nice hot meal. And after spending the day with this guy (and failing to resuscitate him at night), Phil decides to spend the rest of his Groundhog Days helping people. He saves a kid from falling out of a tree. He fixes an old lady’s tire. He saves a man from choking on food at a restaurant.

     Phil even learns to do other things. He starts taking piano lessons. He takes up ice sculpting. He learns French. And he builds more and more on his relationship with Rita. And after a great Groundhog Day, with a great news story in the morning, an afternoon of helping the neighborhood, and an evening of fun with Rita, Phil and Rita stand in the snowy park as Phil reveals to her an ice sculpture of her face that he has done.

PHIL: I know your face so well, I could have done it with my eyes closed.

RITA: It’s lovely. I don’t know what to say.

PHIL: I do. No matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now. Because I love you.

     They kiss and go back to Phil’s room (which I do not approve of, but whatever), and wake up the next morning: February 3. Time has moved on, and Phil Connors has become a better man.

     I guess the moral I got out of “Groundhog Day” was the idea of making everyday count. Because what if there is no tomorrow? Or in Phil’s case, what if tomorrow is today? What will you do to reach somebody else? Are you willing to sacrifice your own pleasure today for someone else’s?

     In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells that as long as we focus on Him and His plan for us, all our own needs will be provided: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) That’s often hard for me to do, but I need to remember that whatever I do to further the kingdom of God will be worth it in the end. My prayer for you is that you will live that same way.

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