“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”—Matthew 6:34
There are few movie concepts that intrigue me more than Groundhog Day. You know it’s going to be a great movie when you can sum it up in one riveting sentence: a man stuck in a small town relives the worst day of his life over and over and over again. Groundhog Day easily makes it on my list of Top 10 favorite movies of all time. If our beloved Bill Murray was placed on earth for one movie, this is it.
Sadly, the friendship of Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis—a collaboration that churned out comedy gold such as Caddyshack—turned sour during the filming of Groundhog Day. As one article puts it, “During the filming, Murray’s life was tumultuous. His marriage was dissolving, and his demeanor on the set was increasingly erratic. He would show up late to work, throw tantrums, and generally disagree with many of Ramis’ choices.” Hmm…kinda sounds like Phil Connors, doesn’t it? Even after Groundhog Day was a success, Murray and Ramis didn’t speak to each other for 21 years.
If you have seen the movie, you will remember that a central part of the story is that weatherman Phil is trying to get the recently-hired producer, Rita, to fall in love with him. His first tactic is to use his wellspring of extra time to learn every detail about Rita so he can plan perfect dates and make her feel like they are a match made in heaven. When this method fails, he ultimately wins her over by becoming a good person and small-town hero.
Here is a series of questions I have always wondered about Phil’s character arc…
- Is the final version of Phil truly better than the first?
- If we act good on the surface just so others will like us, does that make us good at our core? (No, it doesn’t.)
- Did Phil truly change or was he just putting on a show at the end?
- Was the first version of Phil more honest?
I hope that Phil’s heart was truly changed when he woke up with Rita on the day-after-Groundhog Day, because otherwise he’s going to be trapped in a different kind of reality: living a lie. But it’s still a reality where you live your worst day over and over again. Just ask Walter White.
Bill Murray’s brother convinced him to reach out and reconnect with Harold Ramis when the director was dying of vasculitis in 2014. We’ll never know what they talked about during that meeting, but if Murray’s impromptu tribute at the 2014 Oscars is any indication, they ended on good terms:
A moment of change and reconciliation like that is something I can watch again.