Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Day

Well today is February 2 – Groundhog Day. Since 1993, it has always been a personal tradition for me to watch the Bill Murray comedy “Groundhog Day” each year on this day. As comedies go, it’s more than passably funny. Bill Murray is one of my very favorite comedic actors, and he does very well in this one. But, more than the simple entertainment, the real appeal for me is the more subliminal message about reincarnation. That’s right, you heard me. Reincarnation.

In the story, Phil Connors(Murray), is a network weatherman from a local TV station in Pittsburg assigned to the once-a-year location shoot at Punxatawney, Pennsylvania where he covers the same story every year: Will Punxatawney Phil, the famous Groundhog come out of his hole on February 2 and see his shadow or will he not? If he does, then the legend has it that Mother Nature will trade that one single sunny day for 6 more weeks of winter. If not, then winter will end early.

Phil is tired of doing this, and wants to move up. He wants to be a news anchor. Maybe go for the top on-air job at the station. Maybe move to a bigger station. He is ambitious and has aspirations, but his career seems stuck in a rut.

Then something weird happens. He and his team (pretty Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliott) do the shoot as normal, spend the morning in the town, but then get caught in a freak snowstorm that prevents them from returning to the city that day. So they prepare to spend the entire day in the town. Phil makes some half-hearted plays for Rita (MacDowell) but shuns everyone else. The day ends, they go to their hotel rooms.

But the next morning, Phil awakens to the radio announcing it is Groundhog day. Again. He spends the day getting used to the concept that the day has repeated itself. When he awakens the next day, it’s groundhog day again. Then it happens again. And again. And keeps happening – seemingly forever.

He tries everything to break the cycle. He even tries to kill himself – in increasingly bizarre ways. Jumping off buildings, driving off a cliff at a strip mine and exploding in flames, etc.

But then, once he realizes that it is out of his control, he begins to relax a bit and decides to use the time to his advantage. He learns to play piano. He learns ways to make a lot of money. He learns more and more about Rita that he finds that he can pretend to be exactly what she is looking for so that she will like him. But then, he finally comes to the realization that it’s really all about improving himself and helping others out. THAT is the ultimate lesson in life. That is when he finally wins over Rita and that’s when he breaks the loop, and life begins anew.

The whole concept of coming back to live the time over and over again until we learn our lessons, and become a better person is what life itself is all about and the underlying lesson of reincarnation. That’s why I like it (other than Bill Murray’s fun portrayal) and that’s why I watch this movie every year on this day.
I don’t force anyone else to watch it with me – it’s just a quiet, little personal tradition, that’s all. But I do it. I enjoy it. I get it.

And tonight, I will do it all over again.


At 2/02/2006 6:28 PM, Anonymous RobertG said...

Thanks for reminding us of that wonderful movie. I think of Groundhog Day as a "stealth" movie, one that somehow made it through the Hollywood system in spite of having real substance.

Expressed in terms of the teachings of Buddha, the character Bill Murray portrays is stuck in samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death. When he realizes he is part of a greater whole, interdependent with all around him, he becomes less self-centered. Here is a review of the movie with more from that perspective.

At 2/02/2006 10:04 PM, Blogger Ptelea said...

I have always loved this movie. Although I have never really thought of it in terms of reincarnation, I like the way Bill Murray changes from being a jerk into someone much better. So, I too can watch this movie over and over!

At 2/03/2006 12:36 PM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

Thanks Robert, nice article. I really don't know where you get all your references to things. It just amazes me!

Ptelea, I'm glad you like the movie too. The transformation of Murray's character is cool to watch. He does it in an un-contrived way. It all seems just a natural response to the situation as it evolves. In fact, I guess you could say that as events evolve - so does he! LOL.

At 5/31/2006 10:16 PM, Anonymous igor said...

I also just LOVE this movie, don't know why...


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