Review by Trylon regular Aaron Vehling.
There’s a point in Harold Ramis’ 1993 film Groundhog Day when arrogant Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) posits that the omniscience and omnipotence of God is a gift of his age: “He’s just been around so long he knows everything.”
Connors is potentially thousands of days into what seems like an infinite loop of Feb. 2, and during that time he has learned new things about himself and the world around him. He knows exactly when a waitress will drop her dishes on the floor of a restaurant, what his television news colleagues will say at the table and pretty much how everything else will shake out in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Connors knows all.
The way things are going, it’s no stretch to consider that perhaps Connors has become a deity; at least of this particular town. Perhaps this misanthropic meteorologist, stuck on-assignment in a town he despises among people he can’t stand, is locked in purgatory. There’s another possibility: Like Siddhartha Gautama who became Buddha, he’s going through a process to toward enlightenment.
During his journey, Connors kills himself, robs, steals, messes around with women and treats people like dirt. The only consequence is that his days repeat. Death only means he wakes up again on the same day, as if nothing ever happened.
Connors faces the temptation of easy money, sex and power. He uses the repeating days to glean information that will help him get into the pants of Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), his producer and love interest who is essentially his opposite. Although the Buddha didn’t give in along his own path, Connors tries on the hedonism with only the space-time continuum to keep him in check.
At some point along the way, though, Connors finds that no amount of women or money gleaned through illicit means is worth living that same day on repeat. So he decides to try something different and embark on an effort to do good will.
Connors is given the opportunity, or maybe he creates it himself somehow, to achieve a level of interconnectedness and cosmic understanding that evades those of us on the linear timeline. Those who encounter him are in awe of the compassionate, laidback and intelligent man who seemingly knows everyone and has scores of useful talents. He is purified.
Groundhog Day, like Kingpin and Wild Things, stands in the Bill Murray canon as that period of the 90s just before Murray reaches his own enlightenment (at least in his career). The latter two aren’t starring roles, but they all represent Murray wringing out most of the remnants of simple comic fare in exchange for something more — whether that something more is tragic, ridiculous or malicious.
Rushmore would soon follow, kicking off Murray’s becoming who and what we know him as today — “Bill Murray,” the dramatic actor with comedic talent and not the comedy actor serving as a tourist in dramatic fare. This is the man who starred in Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers. Murray graduated from Ramis comedies, whether those the late comic genius wrote or directed, like Ghostbusters, Stripes and Caddyshack, and moved onward. Perhaps Murray realized that after doing the same sort of films it was time to get out of his own cycle.
Aaron Vehling is a former journalist and current communications professional who loves the music of Johnny Jewel and the films of Lars von Trier. Though he’s from Longfellow, Minneapolis, he now lives in Harlem, New York, on the same block as the mansion fromThe Royal Tenenbaums.
The Harold Ramis weekend screens at the Trylon, with Stripes on Friday at 7:00, Saturday at 9:00, Sunday at 7:00–purchase tickets here; Groundhog Day screens Friday at 9:00, Saturday at 7:00, Sunday at 5:00–purchase tickets here.