Groundhog Day – the Bill Murray film we need to cast those existential lockdown blues away

Posted on 2 February 2021
By Andy Johnson
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“Okay, campers, rise and shine! Don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooold out there today.

“It’s cooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?

“Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you know, that, uh, that Pandemic thing.”

You may have seen it many times, but there’s something in Bill Murray’s performance in Groundhog Day, which could really enlighten our lives as we continue to stare into the existential abyss of another lockdown.

Bill Murray is a comedy god. He possesses a glint in his eye, a beam from the soul, which warns the audience that he is capable of anything.

In Groundhog Day, his TV weatherman Phil Connors is sent to report on the folklore festival in Pennsylvanian backwater Punxsutawney and he snipes at the local hicks until he becomes trapped in a time warp.

Bill faces Nietzsche’s concept of Eternal Return, living the endless repetition of the same day. The omnipotent clown, usually able to wisecrack his way out of danger, is stripped of his comedy chops and left in limbo to face his demons.

But the Ghostbusters legend retains an aura of laid back degeneracy, which makes him heroic in the face of endless hours trapped in the same spot.

There’s something dirty and mischievous in the soul that Bill knows how to tap into and it’s a revelation to watch.

He does what many of us dream of doing with no consequences. Orchestrating a heist, gorging on endless cream cakes, guzzling coffee from the pot and manic police car chases with rodents.

Exploiting the timeless curse, he sets to work on seducing his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) trying to shape his image to become her perfect man.

Soundly rejected every time: “You’ll never love anyone but yourself…” Phil then reveals the painful truth in Bill’s performance: “I don’t even like myself.”

Has anyone else felt like that lately? No matter what you hope to achieve, the next day comes with a numb sense of hope that it will both stay the same forever and change.

Driven to a series of deadpan suicide bids, we even see a stone cold blue-faced Bill laying prostate in the mortuary, before the film is pulled back from the edge of darkness.

He realises he is not a god and chooses to play an angel, crafting the perfect day out of unselfish acts.

The story is symbolic not only of the cyclical nature of life, but also Bill Murray’s effort to escape the trappings of his blockbuster success.

Jaded by the level of fame Ghostbusters gave to him, Bill took time away from Hollywood to study philosophy in Paris.

Groundhog Day director and writer Harold Ramis believes that the success of his movies didn’t change his pal Bill, but it distorted and darkened his outlook – ‘making him take greater creative control of his projects.’

The pair fell out whilst filming. Bill wanted the film to be more dark and provocative, compared with the uplifting comedy that Harold wanted.

We can see elements of both emerge on screen and they produced another comedic masterstroke together.

Here’s something for returning viewers to the movie to look out for… Have you ever spotted Bill’s older brother Brian Doyle Murray playing the town’s mayor?

He also appeared in Caddyshack, Scrooged and Ghostbusters II.

Need us to hook you up with a copy of Groundhog Day this February? VideOdyssey have a mountain of tapes and VCRs and can deliver Nostalgia SOS packs, with a player and 10 tapes featuring your fave actors.

Or you can visit the VideOdyssey VHS ebay store, home to more than 10,000 tapes and make it part of your collection. : VideOdyssey