1) This film is a holiday classic associated with one of the less popular American holidays out there. Hell, this film probably made Feb. 2nd an even bigger deal than it was before.
2) The first thing we experience as an audience member of George Fenton’s quirky score over the opening credits. Fenton’s music I think is one of the more underrated aspects of the film as there is a lot of range to this particular score. There is the quirky comedy music, the kinda faster actiony stuff, but my favorite part is the romantic score featured in this film. You should give the soundtrack a listen if you have the opportunity, it’s pretty damn good.
3) Bill Murray as Phil Connors.
Director Harold Ramis, who frequently collaborated with Murray (mostly notably in the two Ghostbusters films) originally wanted Tom Hanks to play Phil but thought he was, “too nice,” and hired Murray instead. That’s great for us as the audience, because the role is one of Murray’s best. He is able to believably take us through this journey of character, playing the lovable but jerky Phil in the beginning with just as much believability as the guy who’s actually trying to do some good at the end. Murray’s improv is on full display with the film and that helps with the reality of his character.
Unfortunately, this would be the last film Murray and Ramis would collaborate on. An ongoing debate between whether the film should be more dramatic (Murray’s stance) or comedic (Ramis’ stance) was a contributing factor. As well as this, according to IMDb:
Bill Murray was undergoing a divorce at the time of filming and was obsessing about the film. He would ring Harold Ramis constantly, often in the early hours of the morning. Ramis eventually sent writer Danny Rubin to sit with Murray and iron out all his anxieties, one of the reasons why Murray stopped speaking to Ramis for several years.
I don’t know if they ironed out their issues before Ramis’ untimely death in 2014, but I hope so.
4) Chris Elliott as Larry.
This is probably Elliott’s most famous role, which is saying something considering he’s mostly the comedic camera man who’s tired of Phil’s bull. But Elliott’s performance makes it funny and memorable, delivering some of the best lines in the films (more on that later).
5) Andie Macdowell as Rita.
Rita is actually a character who is surprisingly well developed but in a lot of little ways, and I’ll elaborate more on that as I go. MacDowell is wonderful in the part, making Rita a positive upbeat person but believably so instead of just a “life force” character. She plays Rita (and it is written) with some flaws too which helps make her interesting, but again more on that later. Her biggest asset is probably that she can hold her own with Bill Murray in a scene. You can tell (or at least I can guess) in certain scenes that Murray is improvising and that MacDowell is sharp on her toes with a comeback. It makes their relationship a believable one. Especially considering there is a line later how Phil fell for Rita as soon as he saw her. You can sort of see that when you look for it. It’s small, but it’s there. A testament to both actors.
6) Although this film takes place in Punxsutawney, PA it was actually filmed in Woodstock, IL. I was there back in fall of 2015 and the town square where they filmed most of it is pretty much still the same. They even have a black on the corner where Bill Murray stepped into the really bad puddle. It was pretty cool. (Only this time however did I realize one of the signs style reads “Woodstock Jewelers”.)
7) Remember how I said Larry has some great lines/observations?
Phil [after Rita says she booked him a nice hotel]: “You know I think this is one of the traits of a really good producer: keep the talent happy.”
Larry [to Rita, after Phil has left]: “Did he just call himself the talent?”
8) “I Got You Babe”, the Sonny & Cher song that plays every morning when Phil wakes up, was the song that was in the very first draft of the script and carried through until the end. The song probably became more popular (or at least, popular for a longer time) BECAUSE of its use in this film.
9) Ned! Ryerson!
Like a lot of characters in this film, Ned Ryerson could have just been a throw away and forgettable little gag. This guy who supposedly knows Phil from high school and is an insurance agent now. But actor Stephen Tobolowsky totally MAKES this role. There’s nothing insincere about Ned. He doesn’t feel like a leech, he feels like an overly enthusiastic and genuine guy who’s absolutely hysterical. Tobolowsky plays Ned over the top in the tradition of Abbott & Costello and it works wonderfully!
Also Ned has the best lines.
Ned: “Am I right or am I right or am I right? Right? Right right right right!”
Ned: “Watch out for that first step there, it’s a DOOZEY!”
These lines on there own are not necessarily interesting but Tobolowsky just gives them such life it is a treat to watch.
10) This film has so many great lines.
Police Officer [when Phil is out in the street in a blizzard, trying to get to Pittsburg]: “Now you can go back to Punxsutawney, or you can freeze to death.”
[Phil takes a minute to stand in the snow. He looks back at Punxsutawney and then at the road ahead.]
Phil: “I’m thinking.”
11) There is never an explanation given as to why Phil is relieving Groundhog Day over and over again. I think in one draft of the script it was a spell cast by a jilted lover, but in the final film and for most drafts there’s no explanation. I think that’s the reason the film works so well. It’s not some Harry Potter fantasy. It’s just a comedy/drama with one fantasy element.
12) It’s fun rewatching this film again because you get to realize that characters who just have a throw away line earlier in the film end up being like Phil’s piano teacher or the drunks he meets a few Groundhog Days later.
13) I love that when Phil asks Rita for a good hard slap across the face she doesn’t hesitate and he’s not pissed about it. They’ve got each other. ;)
14) This line.
15) I like that Phil always goes to Rita for help with his Groundhog Day problem. She has no experience with this! There’s no reason for him to go to her with his problems other than he trusts her and respects her.
16) Hey look, it’s director Harold Ramis!
Phil [to two drunks]: “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and nothing you did mattered?”
Drunk: “That about sums it up for me.”
Phil [after one of the drunks decides not to drive and stumbles]: “You wanna throw up here or you wanna throw up in the car?”
Drunk: “I think…both.”
Phil [while driving towards a train on train tracks]: “I’m betting he’s gonna swerve first.”
20) When Phil realizes his actions don’t have consequences the film gets fun real fast.
21) I find it a little pretentious that Rita’s reaction to this:
Is to quote a Sir Walter Scott poem at him which says he’s egotistical. Like, really? You’ve got this whole poem memorized JUST to call people egotistical? I mean I like it from a writing standpoint, it makes her kind of flawed, but also she comes off as pretentious. Not that she’s wrong, it’s just she’s very in your face with it.
22) The original plan for this film is that we as the audience would not see the start of the loop, instead just picking up on an “average” day and wondering how Phil knew the things he did. Harold Ramis promised he wouldn’t change this to the screenwriter but ended up changing it anyway (I think with the screenwriter’s blessing, but maybe not). I think this works better. It allows us to invest in Phil as a character more.
23) Phil’s attempts to seduce Rita - I think - start out with him trying to genuinely get to know her. He asks her about her life and only then goes down the route of, “Who’s your perfect guy?” I think he does have real feelings for her he just doesn’t know how to handle them in a healthy way so he uses this time loop to his advantage.
24) It’s interesting to see the repeated attempts of Phil trying to win over Rita, with each mistake done over until it’s not a mistake. You can tell that each time is a little less sincere, and the times when they connect the most are typically when he’s being honest with her and just letting things happen.
25) Another flaw of Rita’s:
Rita: “What should we drink to?”
Phil: “To the groundhog!”
Rita: “I always drink to world peace.”
THEN WHY THE HELL DID YOU ASK HIM WHAT YOU SHOULD DRINK TO!?!? I like it, it fleshes out her character, but it’s an annoying thing to find in a real person (and I know men and women who act like this).
26) I have so many questions.
Rita [on her ???? date with Phil]: “Do you ever have deja vu?”
Phil: “Did you just ask me that?”
This is the only time we EVER have another character show a hint of someone being aware of something is going on. WHY RITA!?!? WHY NOW!?!? WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?!?
27) The best example of what I was talking about in note 24 is the snowball fight Phil & Rita have with the kids. Phil didn’t know that was going to happen, he didn’t know what Rita was going to say, that’s the first time he ever got that far. And he’s being honest with her! It’s such a nice scene between the two of them. And then when he tries to recreate it the next Groundhog Day it feels super awkward, incredibly forced, and wildly uncomfortable.
28) I think this is such an incredibly important concept.
Phil [after Rita says he’ll never love anything because he only loves himself]: “That’s not true! I don’t even LIKE myself!”
Keeping this in mind as Phil begins his downward spiral tells you A LOT about his character. And it’s that downward spiral that pushes this film from fun comedy to great movie.
29) And you thought this would be a light hearted comedy!
Phil: “I’ll give you a winter prediction. It’s gonna be cold. It’s gonna be gray. And it’s gonna last you the rest of your life.”
30) At one point Phil throws his radio on the ground and the speaker/song is still going.
According to IMDb:
The scene where Phil picks up the alarm clock and slams it onto the floor didn’t go as planned. Bill Murray slammed down the clock but it barely broke, so the crew bashed it with a hammer to give it the really smashed look. The clock actually continued playing the song like in the movie.
31) The entire scene with the car chase and the quarry, where Phil kidnaps the groundhog and attempts suicide (which is a more entertaining scene than it sounds), is very well done. It shows just how desperate Phil is to end this nightmare. And it also gave us some pretty great lines.
Larry [after Phil drives into the quarry and the car crashes]: “He might be okay. (Car explodes) Well no, probably not now.”
32) The montage of Phil’s attempts at suicide is good for two reason: it gets across where he is at this point in the film, and it’s short. If it were too long this scene would get too depressing too fast.
33) I love this fucking scene.
Phil has relieved the same day over and over again for what has probably been years and he’s so damn tired he just wants to talk to someone about it. So what does he do? He goes to Rita. He tries to convince Rita and succeeds wonderfully. This scene is a prime example of this film’s beating heart, of why it’s a great feel good movie. Phil knows everybody! He knows all their stories, their names, everything about them, because he’s been living the same day over and over again. It’s wonderful. Even without trying it all just sinks in. And guess what? He knows Rita the best.
Phil: “You like boats but not the ocean. You go to a lake in the summer with your family up in the mountains. There’s a long wooden dock and a boathouse with boards missing from the roof, and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone. You’re a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones. You’re very generous. You’re kind to strangers and children, and when you stand in the snow you look like an angel.”
THIS is why I love this film! This emotion! This heart! And there is a beautiful piece of score on the soundtrack called, “You Like Boats But Not The Ocean,” which sums those feelings up perfectly in music and I love that too! Everything about this just makes me feel good! Also how strange and insightful a little detail about Rita like, “you like boats but not the ocean,” is!
34) And so begins the good Phil tour. The amazing final act of the film where Rita has convinced Phil that he can maybe do some good with this “curse” of his and which carries the same wonderful emotion that was present in the diner scene where Phil convinces Rita he’s serious.
35) Bill Murray improvised this:
Phil [after Ned comes up to meet him and he hugs Ned]: “I don’t know where you’re going but can you call in sick?”
36) But even as Phil works to helps people’s life, he can’t save everyone.
This old homeless man is someone who Phil passes everyday and, when he starts acting kind, gives a ton of money to everyday. Towards the end of the film Phil meets the man and takes him to the hospital where he dies. So the next day Phil tries to save him. He takes him to a restaurant, gives him a big meal, and the man still dies. The man dies everyday. And that scene is heartbreaking and adds such weight to the film and I love how sad it makes me every single time.
I wish I were this kind, but honestly I’m scared to be. I’m scared to be taken advantage of but there are people out there who need help and hopefully I’ll be better about giving it in the future.
37) If you pay attention to the people in the background at the hospital you’ll see this kid:
Remember that kid. You only notice him when you’ve watched the film ten times (that’s not a hyperbole either), but remember him.
38) The final Groundhog Day is a wonderful thing to behold. It starts with us hearing the end of Phil’s report on the groundhog.
Phil: “When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. Put standing here amongst the people of Punxsutawney, and basking in the warmth of their hearts and hearths, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter. From Punxsutawney, it’s Phil Connors. So long.”
And EVERYONE is paying attention to it, hell rival news networks are recording it! It’s THAT moving!
39) Do you remember the kid?
40) The final party is a great scene too. It’s the culmination of probably Phil’s best Groundhog Day yet. He helped as many people as he could and even plays for their pleasure at the party. It is his least selfish and the only time in the film we ever see the party, even though it was happening every single night. And also Rita spends $300+ to win Phil in a bachelor auction when the highest bid before that was $60.
41) Kneel before Zod!
42) I love this.
Phil [after ice sculpting Rita]: “I know your face so well I could’ve done it with my eyes closed.”
43) And then tomorrow finally happens.
A great end to a great film.
Groundhog Day is just amazing. It has a heartwarming story, a feel good vibe, an intriguing concept, and a wonderful cast. It is just so good for so many different reasons and if you haven’t seen it yet you should. Right now.
To encourage the curly women out there - riding the coattails of my post below, here are some of my favorite celebrity curls. Unfortunately, most of these woman now straighten their hair (Julianna, Kerri, Julia, Annalynn), but they still provide some sick inspiration.