As published in Correio do Estado
1993 is said to have been “the year of the family movie,” with several mega-blockbusters like Star Wars – Return of the Jedi, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, and Free Willy, to name a few. In the midst of these blockbusters, came a pearl that bet on the lightness of its story to win over the public: Groundhog Day. The comedy in which a weather journalist is literally trapped on the same day is, even today, 30 years later, one of Hollywood’s most beloved. Who doesn’t remember and love this movie?
Because in the original, Groundhog Day is a reference to what happens in Punxsutawney, a small town in Pennsylvania, where every February 2nd, the tradition of observing groundhogs is maintained. If the animal leaves the burrow because of cloudy weather, then winter will end early. If the day is sunny and the animal is frightened by its own shadow, returning to the burrow, the cold will continue for another six weeks.
The film opened on February 4, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, and has made over $100 million in admissions. The romantic comedy revolves around a simple and fun metaphor: until we change who we are, we’ll go through the same problems. In the case of weather reporter Phil Connors (Bill Murray) his arrogance and intractable attitudes towards people in general. Phil is frustrated with his career, and even more, irritated that he has to cover the event he considers stupid and does everything grudgingly, mistreating everyone. When a blizzard isolates the team in Punxsutawney, Phil wakes up the next day to the same song as the day before playing on the radio, I Got You Babe by Sonny and Cher and slowly realizes that he “is stuck” on the day he hates the most. No matter what you do, it literally always ends up in the same place. He gradually realizes that to get out of the loop, he needs to change his personality, not before abusing the fact that there are no consequences for his actions and so he indulges in binge eating, one-night stands, assault, and manipulation. The only one immune to his actions is his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), who he wanted to conquer for fun, but with whom he really falls in love.
Tom Hanks was the original actor in the cast, but director Harold Ramis thought he would never deceive the audience that he would not become a nice guy (and he himself, already wanting to make the career change that would come with the Oscar for Philadelphia, did not agree to do Groundhog Day). Harold, who was a friend of Bill Murray, knew he was the right guy to play Phil. The two fought a lot behind the scenes, everything that always becomes a legend when talking about a classic. In this case, it was about the script that was nominated for an Oscar.
In 2020, Danny Rubin, author of the original story and film, emailed me that he wanted to stop doing interviews about his work on the production as it felt like he was still stuck at the time – and we laughed about it. Fair enough, no? But he loves the fact that 30 years later people still react with the same passion to the story. Interestingly, he got the idea for Groundhog Day when he was watching Interview with a Vampire and thought about what it would be like to deal with immortality. Would I be bored? Would it always be fun? What would it be like to mature and become a better person? He asked himself. To lower the costs of a story that would be expensive if it lasted centuries, he thought of the concept of a person who wakes up every day to repeat the same routine. Comedy and drama would be in the same problem: the pause in time.
The script took eight weeks to complete. The choice of I Got You Babe has a simple reason: the repeated chorus, in addition to talking about love, of course. Upon reaching the hands of Harold Ramis, the concept gained some changes, such as emphasizing the spirituality and romance of the story and adding more humor. Bill Murray wanted to focus on philosophical issues and Ramis knew he had to bring laughs to the film. In any case, when it came time to release Groundhog Day in the theatres the actor refused to be at the premiere and the two didn’t speak until 2014, shortly before the director’s passing.
Considered one of Hollywood’s greatest recent classics, Groundhog Day has not lost its appeal or charm. To this day, it is a popular reference for everything that is repetitive (in the best sense, of course!). In 2016 it became a musical and in 2019, it a game. Considering that 2023 is your 30th birthday and that the marmot predicted that the winter in the northern hemisphere will be long, is it worth repeating, do you agree? It is available for rent on Amazon Prime Video, Claro TV Plus, and Apple TV Plus. I will certainly be seeing it again!