March 14, 1993 [Groundhog Day]

I was happy watching Bill Murray's Twilight Zone dilemma unfold on Groundhog Day, even with the multiple suicide attempts--until the learning-to-play-piano montage.  By the end he's cookin' with gas with the jump-swingers and sporting the requisite sunglasses and that patented Murray smirk--somehow never disdainful of anyone in particular while laying low the ego of everything in general; but all I could think of was the years he'd spent in the time-trap--years long enough to go from wince-inducing scales to chopsticks to finger exercises to bee-bop-a-ree-bob at the Community Center.  And that was only a little tiny piece of time with the same day.  I suddenly felt as though the theater's air had thinned--or that the walls had inched closer.  For a moment, it was the scariest movie I'd seen in a long time, despite--no, in part because of--the happy faces all around.

And then at the end, this fable from "a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity" recognizes one small desire--no, not small; maybe the only real desire: to wake up next to someone you love and who loves you.  Jesus, Disney couldn't have figured it out any more plainly or with such reckless sentimentality.  But Phil has earned the right to his one morning of happiness--and suddenly I realize that everyone in the picture deserves something: They have all lived through Phil's Groundhog Millennia, even if they do not realize it; time's erosion must have smoothed them somehow, even if that time seemed one day long.  And I imagined that he might get only that one morning, until something mars their happiness, and their lives "fade into the light of common day."  But after all those years, maybe Phil will regain his footing as he recalls how long some days can be and how much work it takes to move to a better one.


  1. Yes, that's the sensation I got from The Truman Show, though oddly enough not from this movie. I've been told an early version of the script wanted to quantify the time Murray spent in his time-warp, like thousands and thousands of years. It probably would have been too horrifying, though on the other hand the suggestive realization - while watching an ostensible comedy scene - that this was probably the case, can be just as horrifying.

  2. Joel, I wonder if we could accept even the ending, let alone the comedy, if the movie quantified the time spent. How could he have emerged such a decent guy after the water torture of those centuries? He would have gone mad long ago.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts