Groundhog Day is an opportune time to talk about the movie and the musical of the same name.
When Groundhog Day, the movie, opened on February 12, 1993, it was regarded as little more than a better-than-average Bill Murray comedy about an arrogant TV weatherman forced to relive the same day over and over and over again. Since then the movie and the musical have taken on a second life as a deceptively deep philosophical meditation on the meaning of life. A God Buzz
Besides seeing the movie 26 years ago I saw Groundhog Day, the Musical on Broadway two years ago. The ticket was a lot cheaper than one for Hamilton, which was more than my monthly Social Security check. I did enjoy it, but I missed seeing Bill Murray who came to see the musical the next day.
In the movie and the musical, we encounter Phil Conner, a nasty, self-centered weather forecaster. His primary goal is to have his way with his kind and beautiful producer, Rita.
For unexplained reasons, Phil is trapped in time – on Groundhog Day. He is forced to repeat that day over and over. He soon finds he is in a life with no consequences. He quickly pursues hedonistic, chaotic and criminal behavior. This turns out to be a trap – a false freedom of sorts.
This recurrent day took about ten years for Phil. He represents how a soul could change if it had an extremely long time to get things right. Eventually, Phil grows tired of his selfish and sinful pursuits. He comes to learn that Rita represents all things good. He has to be true in his intentions, actions and spirit to win her heart. After countless rejections, Rita eventually brings out Phil’s best.
Having been sentenced to repeat that day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, he also learns about all the people, their backgrounds and what makes them tick. He learns it’s far more rewarding to help others. Near the end of the film and musical he learns he cannot save the old man living on the street. He accepts that he has limitations and that time is incredibly valuable.
HERE ARE 6 VALUABLE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM THE MOVIE AND THE MUSICAL:
1. The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth LivingMost us aren’t as self-involved, self-indulging, or self-celebrating as Phil is. He’s a man who never takes stock of his life and its failings. He does not follow the advice of Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
2. Emotional Honesty Should Never Be Replaced by SarcasmIt’s easy to be sarcastic. In our sometimes unsentimental age, deflective humor and emotional distance can be a more comfortable way to go. It can also make you a jerk like Phil, who is sarcastic and ironically detached about everything. Phil mocks anything that might be even remotely sincere or authentic: people’s interests, lives, professions, and emotions. It facilitates his ability to care only for himself and keep a perpetual distance from others. There is no greater way to engage with life and people than removing any barrier between yourself and emotional honesty.
3. You Can’t Plan a Perfect DayAnyone who has ever tried to plan the perfect first date knows that there’s no way to make it perfect. It just happens. Phil tries to create the ideal day to prod Rita into falling in love with him, but it always fails. It’s partially because his intentions aren’t genuine, but also because he is forcing what can’t be forced. It’s only when he learns to live a full life that she spontaneously finds her way into it, and begins to share a day with him far better than the one he tried to construct earlier on. Groundhog Day beautifully reminds us that the best days of our lives are the ones we don’t plan for. They’re the ones that just happen to us.
4. Sometimes You Have to Reach Your End To GrowThere’s a point in Groundhog Day when Phil’s looped existence becomes his nightmare. He starts killing himself (by really painful methods) to try to escape, but he can’t succeed. When he hits his lowest point, he confesses to Rita, “I’ve killed myself so many times, I don’t even exist anymore.” More importantly, he says “I’ve come to the end of me. There’s no way out.” What he doesn’t realize is that coming to his end is the way out. It’s an existential reboot, a clean slate. Sometimes we have to realize we’re not the person we want to be anymore in order to propel us towards becoming someone better. A God Whisper
5. A Life of No Consequences Gets BoringThe first few days of Phil’s perpetual do-over teases us with the vicarious pleasures of imagining what we would do if we could do anything without fear of the consequences. Initially, it’s a lot of fun watching Phil eat whatever he wants, steal a groundhog, get into a high-speed pursuit, and pick up women. However, Groundhog Day confirms what many of us probably already suspected: living a life of constant whimsy and self-indulgent wish fulfillment would get boring and eventually quite depressing. A God Flash
6. Real Happiness Is the Happiness of OthersThe antidote to Phil’s initial self-indulgence is finding humility and the desire to put others before himself — whether it’s buying his co-workers coffee, saving a child from a tree, or fixing an old lady’s flat tire. It wasn’t enough for Phil to change. His change required the helping of others. Therein lies life’s true rewards and the path to a meaningful existence. Helping others has turned him into the kind of person Rita can love, and therein lies his own true happiness.
I hope you get a chance to see the movie again sometime soon.
Happy Groundhog Day!!