Everywhere the description given for this film is, “A weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again”. This is unfair to summarize a complex film like this in so few words. But what can they do? They have to complete it within word limits. So, here is the story: A TV meteorologist or in simple words, a Weatherman, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) after much persuasion agrees to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebrations on 2nd Feb. He goes there with producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) and gives. This is the fourth time that Phil is covering this festival and he is not happy about it. He is also contemplating or, at least, boasting of some better offers from other channels. His report of the festival and the parade reflects this mindset. As the festival ends a blizzard develops that forces this crew to spend the night there. All is fine and normal even the blizzard that Phil had prophesied would miss them. Next morning Phil wakes up at 6 am to find that today is 2nd Feb, the Groundhog Day. As the day passes he notices that it is only he who is living the day twice and with altering something he can alter others behavior too. The day passes as before. And the next morning at 6 am to his surprise it’s again 2nd Feb the Groundhog Day. The interesting part is that only his memories of the previous day are intact and all other people live the day for the first time.
Let’s examine more about this man Phil. Obviously, he is single and egotist, sarcastic, soured and he thinks he is too smart. He is definitely not a happy man. Knowing his situation, as any sane person, he is first confused then thinks he has gone insane. But after thinking more and more he gets it. Knowing in advance what is going to happen on 2nd Feb, now he tries to take advantage. Here comes the part where human behavior is in question and needs to be studied. Imagine what you would do in similar circumstances. What comes to your mind first? I can bet it is something that can be counted as taking advantage of the situation. So, are we made so? Our instinct is an egoist, selfish that compels us to take the advantage of whatever situation we are in? But if it would have been true the world could not have been the place it is today. That means there are some checks and balances to this naturally selfish instinct.
The plot unfolds like a suspense thriller and this is a very strange film. Strange in the sense that it forces the viewer to pause at regular instances and think what has just happened and where it will lead. It is clear in 1st 30 minutes that what is going to happen in the film and that makes it all the more interesting as the curiosity now shifts from what to how. As Phil comes to know that there is no escape, he starts enjoying his unusual situation. He says in a restaurant, “I don’t have to worry about anything anymore”. That reflects what his plans for the rest of his life are if the situation remains the same and as per his belief, it would stay the same. For how many times he has repeated the day, perhaps only he knows. It’s not told to the viewers.
The film is an analogy to the different stages of relationships between man and nature. At first, come the confusion and fear by acknowledging the surroundings, nature, and its forces. Next is the stage where man is confident that he knows the nature and can control it and can take advantage of it. Phil on knowing that he is going to repeat the day starts taking advantage of it or it would be better to say exploits it. But man doesn’t know that he can never be sure of nature. Same mistake Phil does. He thinks he is in full control but Rita is the check and balance that I talked about. He tries to take advantage of Rita but fails every single day as long as he is not genuine. After this exploitation stage is the stage where man becomes somewhat altruistic. He shows concern for the fellow people and to nature itself. This stage comes in Phil’s life (or should I say Phil’s day) with the influence of Rita. Rita was always there, on every day but Phil could not get her or her thoughts that changed him because he was focusing somewhere else. That is the story of all of us. What we really want from life is always there but we are not able to get it because our focus is somewhere else. Phil starts helping others with the same powers that he was using earlier to exploit them and eventually becomes a respected and beloved man. Nature again takes a turn but this time Phil is a different man.
Bill Murray is the man. He completely nails it. The supporting cast is equally brilliant but they do not have the roles to display their brilliance. It’s throughout Bill Murray’s show. But the obvious winner here is the screenplay. Writing a screenplay that shows a single day for god knows how many times is a very tough job and writing it in such a brilliant way as Groundhog Day is written is certainly a great work. That’s why it is rated as one of the greatest screenplays that were ever written. Director Harold Ramis, in my opinion, has done a great favor to humanity by giving us this film which I rate as one of the most entertaining stories ever told on screen.