Bill Murray’s talent on that day that repeats itself forever –



Of Philip Mazzarella

The fantastic comedy tells the story of a man who finds himself in a seemingly unexplained time loop reliving the same day over and over again

Exactly thirty years ago, “Groundhog Day” by Harold Ramis was released simultaneously in US and Canadian theaters, just over a week after the anniversary of the original title. The “day of the marmot” is in fact a “meteorological” festival celebrated since 1887 in the two areas and which provides annually, on the date of February 2, with the observation of the shelter of a specimen of the animal and its behavior: if it leaves the his lair without being able to see his own shadow due to the cloudiness of the sky, winter according to tradition is destined to “end early” despite the dates imposed by the calendar; if instead the day is clear and the shadow of the marmot is projected on the rock, then the winter will “continue” for at least another six weeks. On this basis, the screenwriter Danny Rubin has built an original and metaphorical fantastic comedy, which after going a little quiet (despite the domestic, very flattering receipts), was able to graft itself into the hearts of viewers from all over the world like a classic and become a narrative reference point for dozens and dozens of other films to follow. As anyone knows today, Groundhog Day tells the story of a man who finds himself in a seemingly unexplained time loop reliving the same day over and over again: he is the cynical television weatherman Phil Connors ( Bill Murray), who broadcaster/client sends reluctantly to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with producer Rita Hanson (Andie McDowell) and faithful cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott), to witness the exit from its den of the very popular “Punxsuwtaney Phil”, the monax specimen intended annually to decree the ideal extension or shortening of the winter season.

Performed without any transport his work, Phil believes that the next day he will wake up to go home: and instead, on the notes of a radio alarm clock that awakens him to the rhythm of the famous “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher, he finds himself dismayed having to relive the day previous one, where everything is repeated in the same way down to the most infinitesimal details. The same thing happens the next day, the day after that and an unspecified, endless, exhausting, alienating and desperate series of successive days. Soon, Phil realizes that he is the only person in that small world who is aware of what is happening: and after an initial period in which he tries in vain to turn the paradoxical situation in his favor to conquer his colleague Rita, he begins to go through a perennial state of bitterness and affliction, suspended between rebellion, desperate bewilderment, unconsciousness and self-destruction. Until he realizes that he has to start doing something that is totally foreign to his nature: that is, to start learning (progressively refining the occupation of the only 24 hours available to him) how not to waste the little time he has, just like the rest “relativized” of humanity, it is granted. There are many reasons why Groundhog Day could have been a “failed” or at the very least irritating film: the demonstrative figure of the protagonist (who according to Roger Ebert was “a Hamlet in a sitcom world”) first painted bluntly as an affective and insensitive worm and then a painful and somewhat pimping mirror of that second possibility (here elevated to the nth degree) typical of the most trite rhetoric of the “American dream”; his inner “journey” which becomes in no uncertain terms and with manifest evidence a fideistic parable on the liberation from materialism poised between a feeling that at times becomes deeply religious (it is no coincidence that a commemorative article in the English newspaper The Independent he stated that the film had been hailed as «the most spiritual of all time») while in some aspects it borders on a vaguely «new age» languor; the very high risk of confronting the Frank Capra-like philosophical-social dimension of his moral question (can we be better people or at least learn to become one by going through a “didactic” nightmare? In this sense “Groundhog Day” is the strictest crypto-make of ” It’s a Wonderful Life” never conceived).

Still, everything works. For two fundamental and basic reasons in the construction of “popular” cinema: the first is the lucidity of a metronomic and hitherto completely unpublished screenplay, so much so that it has become a constant point of reference for future cinema and redelined in the same infinite number of times of February 2 of the protagonist (from the pure remake, the unequal and homegrown “It’s already yesterday”, 2004, by Giulio Manfredonia, to the genre transliteration, the grotesque horror “Auguri per la tua morte”, 2017, by Christopher Landon ), full of inventions and intuitions, chronovirtuosisms, surreal glimpses bordering on the gap in the catatonic demented (thanks above all to the director Ramis, of the National Lampoon school); the second, obviously, the clamorous, indispensable, unimaginable performance for any other actor, by Bill Murray. That is, one of the greatest “comedians” in the history of the entire American cinema, called here to what is perhaps not even his best performance (there is first “Lost in Translation” by Sofia Coppola), but the one in which literally (and not only for the obvious coincidence between the name of his character and that of the initially hated marmot of which he is a paradoxical “double”) the entire film exists only to collapse and coincide with his figure, his “perverse” sensibility », his indecipherable talent alien to any Hollywood cataloging or practice.

February 12, 2023 (change February 12, 2023 | 07:48)


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