I know, I know I should have maybe aimed to publish this on Feb 2nd, but there are two very good reasons why I didn’t; the main one being I forgot. The second is because I normally post on Wednesdays, and this one happens to also be Valentine’s Day. While I’m not a massive fan of the commercialisation of my relationship, I am a massive softie and a romantic, and Groundhog Day has always been one of my favourite romantic comedies. And for me this film is the epitome of why I don’t hold a high opinion of V-Day.
It has been years since I last saw this film, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the film, so I want to celebrate why it is so important to me. You can tell the technology is a bit dated but other than that the film and the story haven’t dated at all. It is classic film; it is about a time loop; about discovering who you are as a person and discovering what really matters in life. A bit of science fiction and a meaningful message is celebration enough to justify why it is a favourite, but I shall elaborate.
A lot of the first half of film is about coming to terms with being stuck in a time loop.
Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph: That about sums it up for me.
This quote has become my favourite from the film. Admittedly it hasn’t always been my favourite. Before I grew up and understood a bit better this one had always been the best one, quite possibly because of the brilliance of the delivery:
Phil: It’s the same thing your whole life: “Clean up your room. Stand up straight. Pick up your feet. Take it like a man. Be nice to your sister. Don’t mix beer and wine, ever.” Oh yeah: “Don’t drive on the railroad track.”
Gus: Well, Phil, that’s one I happen to agree with.
You can probably guess what my favourite scene in the film is; getting drunk on beer in a bowling alley rather than a bar. Definitely small town America, but Gus and Ralph have always been two of the best characters, quite possibly because they are drunk, but most likely because they were always the ones that seemed to accept Phil’s situation without question and they went along with having some fun. I understand better now why they did because of the quote that has now become my favourite.
And because I understand the above quote better, and I understand how awful it would be to see everything tangible that you achieve in a day disappear into nothing, the film has just got better in time. I understand the frustration Phil feels as he tries again and again to woo Rita in an ever increasing series of getting slapped across the face. I understand the depression, because I have felt months roll into one in my head when I have been ill myself.
Acceptance and the desire to better one’s self comes in the latter half of the film. Listening to some beautiful music and reading a pile of books is something my husband and I joked that I would be doing within a week or two of being trapped in a time loop, but that is because learning new skills etc. is something I have learned is what makes each day different from the last.
At the end, having gone though what is probably centuries and centuries of the same day, Phil becomes the man Rita dreams of finding. And that is how people fall in love with each other; it is not some forced meet-cute and some pretend chemistry aided by the fact the actors themselves personify society’s idea of beauty, but because in real life people have interests, skills, the desire to be content in those skills and in doing the best they can to help other people who might not be having the best day.
This is why Groundhog Day is a classic film, because yes in the end it is about love, but in the majority the film is about life and it is about finding what makes life meaningful, of which love is just one part of living. And why is this film the epitome of why I don’t hold a high opinion of V-Day? Because love is not just for one day of the year.
I don’t have a problem with people celebrating love and I commend the idea. It is the commercialisation and expectation around it that I can’t stand; the idea that love is something that can be measured in tangible purchases. Love is something I nurture everyday as part of a greater whole, just like nurturing meaning in life is something Phil learns to nurture in himself as he lives the same day over and over again.