23 October 2010

27. Groundhog Day

Set-up -- he's an asshole, as only Bill Murray can be.

Point of no return/inciting incident -- he was WRONG about something -- there WAS a blizzard, and it means he can't leave the place he hates the most. He's stuck in his assholery, and will be forced to change.

18 mins -- switch to act 2 -- his first repeat day.

Trying to get out of it -- goes to therapy, asks around. Doesn't believe it. This is the classic "denial" part of screenplays, where a hero/MC tries to wiggle out of their destiny until they are thrust into act 2.

33 -- Now, like Spiderman with his webbing, he gets to test out his "powers", test out the limits of this new world he finds himself in. He gets to play: seduces Nancy Taylor, outruns the police, eats a meal of desserts only, steals from the bank truck.

Additionally, at this point we've established the repeating of days well enough, so we don't need to see it anymore. Good economy here.

Subplot kicks in -- relationship with Rita (Andie MacDowell) -- says her name when seducing Nancy.

43 mins -- Getting philisophical with Rita -- she describes her ideal man, and he jokes about being close. He goes about seducing her (buying her drinks, chocolate, building a snowman, reciting french poetry), but it's a con. He's not sincere about it, he hasn't changed at his core, he hasn't earned her love, and that's why he's still trapped.

Midpoint -- he tells her he loves her, she turns on him. "I could never love anyone like you because you don't love anyone but yourself." Montage of her slapping him. He's at a standstill with her because he's still the same dude but faking like he's changed. His new goal in the second half of the film will be to truly improve himself. First he will have to go through hell.

60 -- He's at his lowest, decides to steal the groundhog. Another chase. Montage of him killing himself in various ways, all to no avail.

70 -- "I am a jerk." But he's leveled with her about his problem and he's starting to soften, to become a better person and to see the good in others. He's learning to love, so he's going to get to receive love, and that's going to break the "curse".

75 -- Act 3. The payoff to the setup -- he finally interacts with the old homeless guy, gives him money. Also brings coffee to his coworkers, helps out larry with camera eq.

Decides on self-improvement -- learns piano, poetry, ice sculpting, helping the homeless man out. He can't help him, so he helps others:
saving a kid from falling out of a tree, saving a choking man, fixing a flat tire.

91 -- Rita chooses him -- buys him at a bachelor auction. This is key -- we see he had seduced her, so she must do the same with him now for the audience to accept the fundamental change in his being.

95 -- Is truly content, gained the love of a woman. The curse is broken. Time to celebrate -- he has changed so much he wants to buy a house there!

I defy you not to cry at the small short story of Bill Murray finally recognizing the old homeless man and giving him money, then subsequently trying -- in vain -- to save the man's life by offering medical care, soup, and CPR. It's a small gesture, but a microcosm of the movies concerns, when Bill Murray gives up on trying to save him with a brief glance up to the sky. Amazing stuff.

Many consider this film to be one of the most spiritual films ever made. I would amend that to say that it is one of the most spiritual Hollywood films ever made. Like the great "It's a Wonderful Life", this film uses a fantastical premise in a classical Hollywood fashion to show a damaged man improving himself, accepting the status quo, and living with what he has to the fullest. In that sense, it is both very conservative and subversive at the same time, a tension that makes the film ever more fascinating.