Monday, January 05, 2009

A "self-help project that takes forever"

The NY Times just named Groundhog Day, a Bill Murray movie, as among the top ten movies ever, among such greats as Vertigo, Shane, Red River and Meet Me in St. Louis (among others).  Here's why:

Groundhog Day (1993), directed by Harold Ramis. Another Pygmalion story, but this time the material the sculptor works on is himself. Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a jaded, dyspeptic, arrogant, cynical and obnoxious TV weatherman who on Feb. 2 finds himself covering the emergence of the groundhog in Puxatawney, Pa. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds that it is not the next morning, but Groundhog Day all over again and all over again and all over again. (His own spring will be late.)

His responses to being trapped eternally in the same day include disbelief, despair, excess and hedonism before he settles down to make the best of the situation, which, it turns out, means making the best of himself — a self-help project that takes forever, but forever is what he has. (It is as if he were at once the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and the object of their tutelary attention.). By bits and pieces, fits and starts, he makes himself into the most popular fellow in town and wins the love of his producer, the beautiful Rita (a perfectly cast Andie MacDowell). The miracle is that as the movie becomes more serious, it becomes funnier. The comedy and the philosophy (how shall one live?) do not sit side by side, but inhabit each other in a unity that is incredibly satisfying. This is a “feel-good” movie in at least two senses of the word “good.”

I think there is definitely a Judeo-Christian ethic in there somewhere, and it is likely why I make a habit of watching this moving once a year, right around the second of February, which is about to come around again in the nearer future.

To read about the other nine, go here.

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