Groundhog Day

⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: A classic, with a brilliant original concept done so well everything else has struggled to break out.


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

It's easy to see why every attempt at a reboot or rehash has been met with criticism. The time loop concept is an extremely fun one, but Groundhog Day leaves very little left to explore. I was surprised to see that they went hard into the suicide angle, which feels pretty dark given the film's pedigree. Still, the result is a core concept thoroughly dissected, and done so extremely well.

Obviously, Bill Murray is brilliant in the main role, nailing the progression of his character from arsehole to likeable. I think the stages he goes through – and how Murray portrays them – are surprisingly realistic, and add on some excellent comic timing and the result is a fairly minimalist plot that consistently reinvents itself and finds new ways to garner a laugh.

My only real criticism is that I never really care about the romance angle of the film. This is something which I think modern attempts at the same formula – most notable Palm Springs – have significantly improved. It's not that I don't buy Andie MacDowell's Rita as a love interest, but more that it doesn't feel all that natural. Given Phil's unwavering ego, it is unsurprising that he would become infatuated with the one woman in town that seems to consistently spurn his advances, and I can see that, as his own moral journey evolves, that infatuation may turn to genuine feelings. But those feelings are still a little gross; the power dynamic in a relationship where one person has spent years trying to sleep with you, learning everything about you, working out all the subtle ways you're susceptible to manipulation, it's not exactly a romantic prospect.

At the same time, Rita goes from thinking "this dude's a jerk" to "I'm madly in love" in a single day. Sure, it's a day where Phil appears utterly incredible. He gives a speech so good it brings tears to Larry's eyes and momentarily paused a national celebration; he saves countless people's lives; he is suddenly an exceptional jazz musician, dancer, and general philanthropist. But it's all manufactured. This isn't Phil, it's Phil given a thousand passes at a single day. Anyone would be able to be that exceptional given infinity to practice. So what happens next here? The next day, Phil will still be a better version of himself, but will his Stockholm-like infatuation really bear fruit; will Rita still find this man quite so enticing when he ceases to be exceptional? Honestly, I think the romance is just not needed. It would be a stronger film had they decided to let Phil just become good friends with Rita; maybe hinted that this could evolve into something more. But having them fall for one another that completely, well, it doesn't feel earned or realistic.

And yes, I know, I'm discussing realism about a film where a man is cursed into a time loop by an oversized squirrel, but it still felt a little off, and that's a shame, because in every other way Groundhog Day is perfectly formed.

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