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Groundhog Day is a well-loved 1993 film that massively popularized the time loop trope; with Bill Murray at his deadpan best and a much-lauded script, the film is considered a modern classic.Phil Connors (Murray), an arrogant and smarmy weatherman for a local TV news station in Pittsburgh, his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to film the annual Groundhog Day festival. Phil loathes the annual celebration and is surly throughout the proceedings, wanting nothing more than to pack up and go home. That proves impossible when a sudden blizzard arrives and closes the roads, forcing Phil and the crew to stay the night.He wakes up the next morning to find it's still Groundhog Day. Everyone goes on exactly as they did the previous day, with only him aware of it. Phil's surprised, but he goes through the motions, still gets stuck in Punxsutawney, and wakes up the next morning...to find it's still Groundhog Day — again. And again. And so on, with no end to the loop in sight.The movie proceeds to follow Phil as he tries to both adjust to and escape from his bizarre dilemma, with the comedy and drama drawn from the various ways he reacts to it. From irresponsible, self-centered hedonism (after all, if tomorrow never comes, there are no consequences) to suicidaldespair (if tomorrow never comes, there's no point to going on) to an insane amount of time-eating hobbies (if tomorrow never comes, you might as well try everything) — no matter what he does, Phil's efforts seem doomed to leave him forever trapped in his own personal Groundhog Day — but with help from the kindhearted Rita and his own unexpected potential for self-growth and redemption, the possibility arises that tomorrow will come for Phil after all.
Groundhog Day contains examples of the following tropes.
All Therapists Are Muggles: The psychiatrist Phil visits disbelieves his story and then offers to schedule another appointment for tomorrow. Cue Phil burying his head in a cushion and groaning in frustration.
Apocalypse Anarchy: While it doesn't happen for the world, Phil discusses with a couple of guys what they would do if there was no tomorrow. Their enthusiastic answer is that they could do whatever they wanted, now with no consequences. Inspired by this, Phil decides he's going to live his "Groundhog Day" Loop in the most outlandish way possible.
Armor-Piercing Slap: There's an entire montage of these when Phil tries to refine his technique on Rita (only to get shot down every time).
Artistic License – Geography: Western Pennsylvania does not experience sunrise on February 2nd until around 7:00 A.M. In the film, it's already broad daylight by 6:00 A.M. This is an understandable trope to invoke because it saves the crew from having to repeatedly catch and film through twilight, which is a tall order because it's so short and moves around in time due to cloudy conditions.
Artistic License – Music: At the end of the film, shots of the swing band show an upright plucked bass, but the soundtrack has an electric bass.
Ascended Extra: A rare in-universe example. Many of the characters seen in the Punxsutawney crowd scene and the diner become major characters in Phil's life as he's forced to become intimately familiar with the town, especially Nancy, Gus, Ralph and even his piano teacher.
Bedmate Reveal: Phil waking up next to Rita demonstrates that the time loop is finally over.
Big Eater: Phil's discovered the greatest diet plan ever.
And he doesn't think twice about smoking in the diner, either. Of course, Rita worries about his potential to contract "cholesterol, lung cancer, love handles," but he can afford to disregard her advice.
Black Comedy: The entire montage of Phil committing suicide over and over again, full stop. It's easy to feel sorry for him, but the movie still plays up the comedy of the suicides.
Blah Blah Blah: Phil invokes this during one of his cycles. "Once again the eyes of the nation have turned here to this... (silly voice) tiny village in Western Pennsylvania, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah..."
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Phil tries in vain to call Pittsburgh for assistance when he gets stuck in the blizzard: "Don't you have some kind of a line that you keep open for emergencies, or celebrities? I'm both! I'm a celebrity in an emergency!"
Bungled Suicide: Several of these, all committed by Phil after he decides there's Nothing Left to Do but Die. Even though each one does result in his death, they all count as bungled by virtue of the fact that they all fail to kill him for good and Phil always wakes up at 6 AM of Groundhog Day all over again the morning afterwards.
Phil:(waking up after his first suicide) ...aw, nuts...
California Doubling: Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is represented by Woodstock, Illinois. The hotel across from the square where Phil jumps to his death from the tower? That would be the Woodstock Opera House.
And once you've figured that out, you'll have no difficulty in guessing that the city road that gets closed off and forces the crew to turn around is actually in Chicago (Waukegan, to be exact) and not Pittsburgh.
Character Development: Phil goes from a grade-A Jerkass to a genuine Nice Guy over the course of the movie's running time — and it's believable. Of course, "running time" definitely doesn't equal "real time" in this case.
Chekhov's Gag: To the question "Will you be checking out today, Mr. Connors?"
Phil (Day one): Chance of departure today: one hundred percent.
Phil (Day two): Chance of departure today...eighty percent...seventy-five to eighty?
Phil (Day ????): Phyllis, will you keep my room? I'm gonna stay another day.
Clock King: Phil initially uses this power for evil (i.e. stealing money from an armored car). He later uses it for more benevolent purposes by becoming a sort of guardian angel to everybody.
Closed Circle: The very premise is an extreme temporal-based example of this trope, but the blizzard blocking the road to Pittsburgh (and hence forcing Phil to stay in Punxsutawney) acts as a more conventional spatial one also.
Comedic Sociopathy: Phil eventually realizes that the time loop he's in allows him to live without consequences or guilt. He uses his situation to steal money from an armored car and weasel his way into sex with an attractive local woman. He also tries to weasel his way into sex with Rita, but his failure there spurs his Character Development.
CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Phil attempts CPR in an alley as a last-ditch effort to save a homeless old man, but it doesn't work. (Nothing does, really. The man dies every time, regardless of what Phil does to save him.)
Despair Event Horizon: Phil is eventually driven to the depths of suicidal despair by the endless repetition of February 2. Then, he's driven into even further depths of suicidal despair by the fact that suicide doesn't work. Interestingly, it's when he's at his lowest that he eventually hits on simply telling Rita the truth of what's happening to him...and things begin to improve from that point on.
Double Standard: Happens in the same scene as the Convenient Slow Dance entry. After the couple gets the tickets from Phil, the woman kisses him on the lips. The man then kisses Rita on the cheek, provoking an angry glare from the woman.
Failure Is the Only Option: Phil is never going to be able to save the old homeless man. His realizing this is a key part of his decision to use the time loop for good.
Failure Montage: Several. There's one for Phil's failed attempts at wooing Rita (with repeated slaps in the face), another for his attempts to save the old hobo's life, and a particularly morbid one of him repeatedly committing suicide.
Fate Worse Than Death: Being stuck reliving the same day over and over for years would not be fun for anyone.
Foil: Ned Ryerson, provoking the same reactions from Phil that Phil causes in others.
Foreign Remake: Italian director Giulio Manfredonia remade the film in 2004 using Italian and Spanish actors. The plot is extremely similar (the two major differences being that it happens in the Canary islands and that the protagonist has to film storks) and has many scenes that follow the original exactly, but there are some notable differences (some of which make the Italian version less politically correct).
Foreshadowing: A very clever one. Before Phil even enters the time loop, he complains about having to do the Groundhog Day Festival every year. During the first ceremony, Phil describes everything that's going to happen before it does.
They do the same old shtick every year. Guy comes out with a big stick and raps on the door. They pull the little rat out. They talk to him. The rat talks back. And then they tell us what's going to happen.
Sound familiar? He begins doing that later in the film, especially with the armored car heist.
At the beginning of the movie, Phil's co-anchor mentions a story about sex and violence in movies. Both appear later on.
French Maid: One of the women that Phil seduces is dressed like that because she thinks she's going to a costume party.
Good Samaritan: Phil eventually becomes one once he becomes resigned to the loop. He starts doing good deeds, over and over, and adding new ones as he finds new opportunities each day. He saves a boy from falling, saves a man in a restaurant from choking, he buys enough insurance from Ned to help Ned meet his quota (which becomes even more amazing when you realize that this is February 2nd), and so on. Eventually, the whole town loves him, but even this alone can't break the cycle. Only when he becomes such a nice guy that Rita truly falls in love with him does tomorrow come.
The Hedonist: Phil becomes this in some of the early cycles when he realizes that no tomorrow means no consequence. He takes the opportunity to indulge in unhealthy food, wild behavior, and bedding various women through what amounts to save-scumming.
Phil: Once again the eyes of the nation have turned here to this... (silly voice) tiny village in Western Pennsylvania, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah... (serious) There is no way that this winter...is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out. He's gotta be stopped. (beat) And I have to stop him.
High Concept: Man is forced to relive one day over and over. A simple concept that allows for so many scenarios.
The day in which Phil tells Rita about the time loop and convinces her it's real makes you think it'll be the final loop. When he wakes up afterward, the audience is more disappointed than Phil that the Reset Button has hit again.
Inherently Funny Word: Gobbler's Knob, site of the groundhog ceremony. It's a real place in Punxsutawney, PA, too. It just doesn't look like it does in the movie because it wasn't filmed in the real Punxsutawney. Punxsutawney…heck, that's a funny word, too!
Rita:(on the perfect man) He'll change poopy diapers.
Phil: Does he have to use the word "poopy"?
Instant Expert: Not to the audience, since Phil puts plenty of hours in, but he certainly appears this way to other characters.
It Will Never Catch On: Meta example. In his 1993 review of Groundhog Day, Washington Post film critic Desson Howe recommended the movie but tempered his praise by stating that it would "never be designated a national film treasure by the Library of Congress"; in 2006 the movie was designated a national film treasure by the Library of Congress.
Jeopardy! Intelligence Test: Played with. After a few days, the other guests at the B&B start to think Phil's a genius because he answers every question on that day's edition of Jeopardy correctly, but of course the only reason he knows all the answers is that he's seen this particular episode over and over again.
Roger Ebert mentioned in his Great Movies retrospective of the film that it is Murray's deadpan-Jerkassery that is vital to the film, in that if a lesser actor went Large Ham with it, the film would not have worked.
Karma Houdini: Phil initially exploits the time loop to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants at any time he wants and avoid the consequences; he ends up repeatedly robbing, seducing, attacking, cheating, and manipulating the townsfolk seemingly without punishment. Over the course of the movie, however, it becomes clear that the time loop is his punishment — not only for his actions in the movie, but for his whole Jerkass nature before the day began. (And since every bad thing he does is undone at the end of every day, it hardly matters in the end.) A deleted idea that the loop was the result of a curse from a jilted ex-lover underscores this point.
Larry, too. At first, he just comes off as a guy who won't put up with Phil's crap, but the scene where he steals back his tip money is supposed to be an indicator that he's not a very nice person (if you missed it, then his later comeuppance seems to come literally out of nowhere).
Ditching Nancy (whom he was flirting with in the bar earlier) in favor of going on the stage to be auctioned off was kind of a dick move as well.
Left the Background Music On: During one of Phil's latter time loops, Mozart's Piano Sonata In C plays. Turns out it's a little girl playing it for her piano teacher (before she's kicked out when Phil lays $1000 down for a single piano lesson.)
Meaningful Name: Phil having the same name as the groundhog. It could be construed that Phil is in the time loop til he can no longer see his own "shadow" as well.
Men Don't Cry: After Rita says that the perfect man for her wouldn't be afraid of crying, Phil responds with, "This is a man we're talking about, right?" And he himselfsubverts this belief later when he finally learns how precious life is through his futile attempts to save a homeless old man from dying of old age.
He also cries on the morn of February 3rd - after 6AM.
Nice Guy: What Phil finally becomes when he grows to love all of humanity, Rita included.
No Antagonist: What you've got here is a flawed man who is trapped in a time loop, and goes through the same day all over again indefinitely, until he learns to become a better person. The film has no villain, since Phil is at worst a JerkassAnti-Hero, and the time loop is simply an unexplained event.
1: The immense psychological strain that would be placed on Phil getting used to surprises again after living a few lifetimes worth of the same day.
Harold Ramis stated that Phil lived the equivalent of 10,000 years. So, whatever psychological state Phil was in, he passed it. Maybe he committed suicide for a few hundred years? Towards the end of the DVD commentary, Ramis suggests that, based on how well Phil can play the piano now, he was probably learning for ten years. The time frame is open to interpretation.
It takes a good five years, minimum, to learn a language to fluency. He must have spent months in the library to be able to speak French THAT well.
Actually his first French quote comes from a song, mentioned in the ending credits, "La Bourrée du Célibataire", from Jacques Brel. He says : "La fille que j'aimera Sera comme bon vin Qui se bonifiera Un peu chaque matin" note Could be translated: "The girl I'll love / Will be like a good wine / Getting better / Slightly every morning". It would not take more than a few minutes of rehearsing to say it the way Phil does, and he mispronounced "que". He also says "Baudelaire (Other Wiki), c'est fantastique".
It is implied in a later scene that he learned both Spanish and Italian, so that's another 10 years right there.
2: Given the suggested timespan there must have been days when he did incredibly cruel things to relieve his frustration, but those days aren't shown.
Ramis and his co-writer Danny Rubin have said they deliberately avoided one of the logical extremes that Phil could have done: create despair and kill people with no consequence. They decided to avoid the sadistic possibilities of the time loop. Presumably, the fact that even at his worst Phil has enough of a moral compass to avoid murder and overt sadism is one of the things that helps him on the road to redemption.
Ned: Ned … Ryerson. "Needlenose Ned"? "Ned the Head"? C'mon, buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson: I did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson: got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn't graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson: I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple times until you told me not to anymore? Well?
Phil mentions he was "stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted and burned", but we never see any of it.
Oh, Crap: The first time it loops, Phil reacts to the radio "Put your little hand in mine" by simply saying "Nice going boys, you're playing yesterday's tape", but then they talk about the Groundhog Day. When he looks out the window, he sees there's no snow from the blizzard. That's his first Oh, Crap moment, but it sure ain't the last.
Larry mouths "Oh, shit!" when he sees who bought him at the bachelor auction for 25 cents.
Pet the Dog: When Phil and the crew arrive in town, he loudly complains how much he hates the hotel they're staying at, when Rita informs him she knew he didn't like it and got him a reservation at a quaint bed and breakfast. After hearing this, Phil seems surprised at the act of kindness and sincerely (if smugly) thanks her for it. It doesn't sound like much, but it's the only decent thing Phil does prior to character development.
Plot Twist: One possible ending that was considered was that Rita found herself in a time loop.
Subverted with some Fridge Horror that some of his errands have no lasting effect beyond February 2. For example, the young fiances whom Phil sends to see Wrestlemania may still be a failed marriage, since she was having second thoughts for a reason. Phil has no idea what the long-lasting implications are because, well, while in the time loop there were none.
And subverted with the homeless man, since no matter what Phil does, he dies in the loop.
Shout-Out: Very subtle, but Phil stuffing his face with the cake in the Tip Top gluttony scene, his guzzling from a bottle of Jack Daniels as he watches Jeopardy (for the nth time), and his music act at the end with the Ray-Bans all echo great moments from Bill Murray's fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus, John Belushi.
Slipstream: Officially, there is no in-universe explanation for the time loop. It just... happens to this one guy. Although a backstory was going to be given that the time loop was due to a curse put upon Phil by his ex-girlfriend, but it was soon dropped according to the DVD commentary.
Small Name, Big Ego: Phil before the loop. He invariably responded to greetings with, "Hi, thanks for watching."
Larry:(practically giggling) Did he actually call himself "the talent"?
Suspiciously Apropos Music: At first, Sonny and Cher's I Got You may seem like a random pop song on Phil's radio, but as the film goes along, it gets a sinister edge to it.
I got you, babe. I got you, babe.
During Phil's unsuccessful attempts to seduce Rita in the snow, Ray Charles' You Don't Know Me starts playing.
Switching P.O.V.: Phil is the center of the attention for almost the entire movie. There are short scenes where he is not involved, but will be or just was in the scene. The only glaring difference in point-of-view is one scene where Rita and Larry identify Phil's dead body at the morgue. Although technically his body is still in the scene, so the film arguably just follows his corpse's point-of-view instead.
Talk About the Weather: Mrs. Lancaster tries to make small talk with Phil by talking about the weather—unfortunately, he's pissed off and he's a weather forecaster.
Mrs. Lancaster: There's talk of a blizzard. Phil Connors: We may catch a break and that blizzard's gonna blow right by us. All of this moisture coming up out of the south by midday is probably gonna push on to the east of us and at high altitudes it's gonna crystallize and probably give us what we call snow. Probably will be some accumulation but here in Punxsutawney our high is gonna get up to about 30 today, teens tonight. Chance of precipitation about 20% today, 20% tomorrow. Did you want to talk about the weather or were you just making chit chat?
Technically a Smile: During the second ceremony, Phil makes an awkward, nervous fake smile at the end of his intro.
When the Clock Strikes Twelve: It's 6 AM in this case. True, Phil relives Groundhog Day proper every day, but it's from 6:00 AM February 2 to 5:59 AM February 3. Lampshaded once when Rita expects him to "turn into a pumpkin or something" at 12 midnight.
A World Half Full: Invoked by Gus, when he comments Phil is a "glass half empty" kind of guy.