With the best performance in Bill Murray’s career, Groundhog Day remains a timeless classic after 25 years of release.
Directed by Harold Ramis from a script co-written with Danny Rubin, the fantasy comedy stars Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliott. The cast also includes Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray, Robin Duke, David Pasquesi, and a young Michael Shannon.
With a wry, wisecracking performance, Bill Murray stars as the egotistical weatherman Phil Connors in this romantic comedy where he is mysteriously forced to relive the same day over and over. As such, the minor holiday becomes the single-most worst day of his life and as Connors continues to relive Groundhog Day. To his advantage, he uses it to woo cheerful producer Rita Hanson (MacDowell) into a romantic relationship.
With Hanson and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott), Phil is sent by the fictional WPBH-TV 9 station to cover the holiday festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It’s as the news team is on their way out of town in which they get caught in a blizzard. Connors it caught off guard because he didn’t think the storm would come remotely close to hitting near Punxsutawney. Forced to return back the other way, Connors is surprised to find himself listening to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe” the next morning when his alarm clock goes off at 6 AM.
While the time loop does eventually come to an end, the only question is just how many times he forced to relive the same day. Aside from the days that are depicted on screen–including a morbid montage of his many suicide attempts–it would have to be long enough to become a really great piano player. Ten years? Or even more?
Groundhog Day is a wholly original film–a true cinematic experience in its own right. Even for a romantic comedy, the film doesn’t seem to be full of cliches as so many of the genre’s offerings seem to be. Once Phil realizes what’s going on and that he’s not about to escape the time loop any time soon, he comes to the realization that he needs to become a better person.
In re-writing the script with Rubin, Ramis was able to work the film in a way that was best suited for Murray’s talents as a performer. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the film would be their final collaboration as the two would not speak for nearly 20 years. Reworking the script ultimately makes the film better and who knows what type of film it might have been with Tom Hanks or Michael Keaton in the role of Phil Connors. Both actors turned the role down before Murray got the gig.
Murray’s performance doesn’t only elevate the film to a completely different level but also elevates the work being put in by the rest of the cast. It’s what helps to make Groundhog Day a classic film to stand the test of time.
Columbia Pictures opened Groundhog Day in theaters on February 12, 1993.