Groundhog Day

Carpe Diem

February 2, 2021

This movie – written by Danny Rubin and produced and directed by Harold Ramis, was released in February 1993 based on a premise: What if you had to live the same day over and over until you ‘got it right?’

Groundhog Day – starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell – brought that concept to the big screen. The plot centers around Murray, a self absorbed TV reporter named Phil Connors, who is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event and do a story on whether or not Punxsutawney Phil would see his shadow.

Connors completes his report but a blizzard hits the region, forcing him to remain in Punxsutawney another night. When he awakens the next morning the radio is playing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” just as it had been the previous morning. Connors soon learns that it is February 2nd once again and the events repeat themselves.

And on it goes throughout the movie. Murray is brilliant in the role. At first he despairs his situation, then he gets angry. He starts to alter things in an attempt to escape the ‘loop.’ He embarks on a life of crime, stealing from the townspeople. When that doesn’t release him from repeating each day, he falls into a depression and attempts suicide. But it’s impossible to kill himself and he continues to wake up to February 2nd.

Eventually, he hits on the idea of using his time to improve himself and the lives of those around him. He takes piano lessons and learns all about the people of Punxsutawney who he’s been encountering each day. He finds ways to help ease their burdens.

His love interest, Rita (played by McDowell), also eventually comes around to seeing him for this wonderful sincere guy who affects the lives of others in a positive way.

In the ensuing 27 years since the film’s release, there has been a lot of speculation as to how many consecutive February second’s Phil Connors experiences. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The duration of Phil’s real-time entrapment in the time loop has been the subject of much discussion. Ramis once said that he believed the film took place over 10 years. When a blogger estimated the actual length to be approximately 9 years, Ramis disputed that estimate and his own. He replied that it takes at least 10 years to become good at an activity (such as Phil learning ice sculpting and to speak French), and allotting for the down-time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years. A similar estimate suggests that it takes at least 10,000 hours of study (just over a year’s worth of time) to become an expert in a field, and given the number of loops seen or mentioned on screen, and how long Phil could spend per day studying, that Phil spent approximately 12,400 days or nearly 34 years trapped. In Rubin’s original concept draft, Phil himself estimates that he has been trapped for between 70 and 80 years, having used books to track the passage of time.”

Additionally, many have delved into the ‘deeper meaning’ of the film, finding spiritual and religious meaning. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Rubin has been contacted throughout the years by different experts providing their own interpretations. It has been seen as a Christian allegory with Punxsutawney Phil representing Jesus Christ, an example of the Nietzschean concept of the eternal return, the spirit of Judaism, and the essence of homeopathy. It has also been interpreted as an adaptation of the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus who is also condemned to an eternal, daily punishment. (snip)

Groundhog Day can also be interpreted as a secular tale in which Phil is experiencing an existential crisis where primal indulgences are no longer satisfying, causing him to fall into a depression that he escapes by taking ownership of his own self-improvement; he then uses his improved persona to benevolently help others.”

On February 2, 1993, I was 7 ½ months pregnant and my son had just turned three. I can say for a fact that I did not see Groundhog Day during its initial release. I also, additionally, argue that as a young parent I was living some form of my own repetitive loop.

It is not until one is caring for a baby that you really can appreciate the mind-numbing repetition which it presents.

The first months of a child’s life, particularly, are an exercise in repeated activities. Eat. Sleep. Poop. Repeat. Somewhere around month three you start to emerge from this fog and you notice that things have started to change ever so slightly. A first smile. The first time to roll over. If you’re lucky, the baby sleeps more than a few hours a night without waking up.

Six weeks may not seem like a very long time, but it’s interminable if you are sleep deprived. You might ask yourself “will it always be this way?”

As it turns out, the answer is no. My son was around age five and one night he had a nightmare and appeared in the hubby and my bedroom. I always allowed the kids to crawl in with us for a few minutes but then I would carry them back to their own beds.

The author with her newborn son… several decades ago when she could still pick him up

When I went to pick up my drowsy son, however, I could not do it. Sometime in the previous few days I had experienced the ‘last’ time I was able to lift and carry my child.

Life is full of lasts. And sometimes we don’t even know it will be a ‘last’ until the moment is past. The last time you had a conversation with your Mom or Dad; the last time you rode a bike or went sledding. Somehow an event slips by without you knowing it was the last time.

Groundhog Day is one of my top five favorite films if for no other reason than it reminds me that every day is an opportunity to improve myself and make a difference. It’s also a cautionary message which is best summed up by the Latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem.’

Unlike Phil Connors, none of us gets a repeating loop in life. Whatever your passion, whatever it is that brings you joy and fulfillment, go out and pursue it. Carpe Diem. Seize the Day.

The Wikipedia Link:

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