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Then put your little hand in mine...
Phil Connors, an arrogant and smarmy weatherman for a Pittsburgh local news station, his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to film the Groundhog Day festival. Phil loathes the annual celebration and is surly throughout the proceedings, wanting nothing more than to pack up and go home. That proves impossible when a sudden blizzard arrives and closes the roads, forcing Phil and the crew to stay the night.
He wakes up the next morning to find it's still Groundhog Day. Everyone goes on exactly like they did the previous day, with only him aware of it. Surprised, he goes through the motions, still gets stuck in Punxsutawney, and wakes up the next morning to find it's still Groundhog Day, again.
A few times round the loop, and Phil starts to see the upside. He can do anything he wants, with no fear of the consequences because tomorrow will never come. He can manipulate the townsfolk with ease using what he learned about them in previous iterations, he can steal money with perfect knowledge of when nobody will be looking, and even if the cops do catch him, he knows "tomorrow" he'll just wake up in his bed like nothing happened. Soon he is living a dream life, with enough wealth to buy everything Punxsutawney can offer and inside knowledge that lets him talk every girl in town into bed.
Every girl but one. Rita remains resistant to his charms. No matter what he tries, he cannot find the magic sequence of words that will win her. Even when he tells her everything she's told him she wants to hear, she still detects his insincerity, and rebuffs him. He learns French poetry for her and she still keeps him at arms length.
Frustrated by his failure and the endless, unchanging repetition of the day taking its toll on him, Phil falls into despair. He first tries to kill the groundhog - then, when that fails, he tries to kill himself. However, even death can't stop this curse and he wakes up the "next" morning. Nothing works and he soon finds himself drowned in monotonous apathy, uncaring for anything. Eventually, he talks to Rita, telling her about his predicament and asking what she'd do. Rita, for the first time detecting something sincere and likable within Phil, convinces him to look at the cycle as an opportunity not just for self-indulgence, but for self-improvement. For a brief period, Phil starts doing good deeds, but still mostly as a ploy to break free of the endless cycle. But even so, something inside him is starting to change.
After literally years of knowing the people of Punxsutawney, he comes to genuinely care for and love every one of them. This inadvertently allows him to gain the one thing he needed to earn Rita's love: a sincere and kind heart. Going through the motions of his charity work one day, he decides to take Rita along to show her what he does. By then, he takes his actions seriously. This culminates in a single perfect day, which is enough to win Rita.
The next day he wakes up to a brand new day, full of promise.
This film is the Trope Namer for
Groundhog Day provides examples of:
- And I Must Scream: Being stuck reliving the same day over and over for years tends to not be fun.
- Anti-Hero: Phil, before the character development.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: There's an entire montage of these, while Phil tries to refine his technique on Rita, only to get shot down every time.
- Bachelor Auction: Occurs near the end (during Phil's last "Groundhog's Day" reliving).
- Big Eater: Phil's discovered the greatest diet plan ever.
- Broken Record: "I've Got You Babe". The same could be said (and worse) for the "Pennsylvania Polka".
- Bungled Suicide: Several of these, all committed by Phil after he decides there's Nothing Left to Do But Die. Even though each one does result in his death, they all count as bungled by virtue of the fact that they all fail to kill him for good and Phil always wakes up at 6 AM of Groundhog Day all over again the morning afterwards.
- Butt Monkey: Both Larry and Phil, with each other.
- Casanova Wannabe: Larry the cameraman.
- Character Development: Phil goes from a grade-A Jerkass to a genuine Nice Guy over the course of the movie's running time - and it's believable. Of course, "running time" definitely doesn't equal "real time" in this case.
- Chekhov's Gag: to the question "Will you be checking out today, Mr. Connors?"
Phil (Day one): Chance of departure today: one hundred percent!
- Clock King: Phil initially uses this power for evil (i.e. stealing money from a armored truck). He later uses it for more benevolent purposes, becoming a sort of guardian angel to everybody.
- Comedic Sociopathy
- Convenient Slow Dance: Although by that point, Phil is Genre Savvy enough to have deliberately arranged it.
- And the best part of this? He wasn't even really "arranging" it, and certainly not in any attempt to take advantage of Rita. The dance and all that follows is his "reward" for being able to earn genuine admiration and love from both Rita and the citizens of Punxsutawney under no selfish pretenses.
- CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Averted: Phil attempts CPR in an alley as a last-ditch effort to save the homeless man. No matter what he does, though (including this), the man still dies. Every time. It looks like exhausting and distressing work.
- Creator Cameo: Harold Ramis plays a doctor. The commentary reveals that this wasn't intentional. The extra they hired never showed, and somebody had to step into the big white coat. He makes a very good doctor, since most people associate him with Dr. Egon Spengler. When it comes to playing doctors, he's As Good as It Gets!
- Cursed with Awesome or Blessed with Suck, depending on how Phil makes use of his predicament.
- Deadpan Snarker: Phil, par excellence.
Phil: Well what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today!
- Death as Comedy: Albeit with more bittersweetness than usual due to Phil's anguish; see Despair Event Horizon below.
- Death Montage
- Despair Event Horizon: Phil is eventually driven to the depths of suicidal despair by the endless repetition of February 2nd. Then, he's driven into even further depths of suicidal despair by the fact that suicide doesn't work. Interestingly, it's when he's at his lowest that he eventually hits on simply telling Rita the truth of what's happening to him... and things begin to improve from that point on.
- Double Standard: Happens in the same scene as the Convenient Slow Dance entry. After the couple gets the tickets from Phil, the woman kisses him on the lips. The man then kisses Rita on the cheek, provoking an angry glare from the woman.
- Driven to Suicide: Several times. It doesn't take.
- Dumbass DJ: Say it with us now: "Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today! What is this, Miami Beach?!"
- Earn Your Happy Ending: When Phil turns completely into a nice guy, he is finally able to wake up to a brand new day.
- Enforced Method Acting - See Mistaken for Gay below, and then realize that that scene was improvised by Bill Murray; Ned's reaction was largely genuine. Stephen Tobolowsky (who plays Ned) is a great character actor, and did plenty of improvisation in the film, too.
- Epiphanic Prison: The time loop can be thought of as this.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Parodied. When Phil's car (with him in it) falls off a cliff, another character proclaims unconvincingly that he could still be alive. The car then immediately explodes.
- Everything but the Girl: Closer to "Everything Before The Girl," but it counts.
- Eye Take: Used to full effect by Bill Murray.
- Flipping the Bird: Phil has an unusual way of doing a countdown with fingers....
- Foil: Ned Ryerson, provoking the same reactions from Phil that Phil causes in others.
- Foreign Remake: Italian director Giulio Manfredonia remade the film in 2004 using Italian and Spanish actors. The plot is extremely similar (the two major differences being that it happens in the Canary islands and that the protagonist has to film storks) and has many scenes that follow the original exactly, but there are some notable differences, some of which make the Italian version less politically correct:
- The protagonist is depicted as even more of a jerk in the beginning; during his days of egotistical self-indulgence he deliberately knocks an irritating girl out cold with a metal utensil just for the hell of it, then he phones an acquaintance and insults him, then he phones another one and cheerfully tells him he's slept with his wife. Then the boredom makes him snap, and he takes a submachinegun and shoots the storks, even threatening his coworker with it before turning it on himself - with the coworker getting splattered with his blood.
- During his attempts to have sex with every woman on the island he's heavily implied to have given at least a try to gay sex as well.
- Destiny seems to be actively working against him; he's stuck on the island by bad weather, but when he tries to get away by boarding an earlier ferry the engine breaks. Contrast with the original, where his being unable to leave is due entirely to passive circumstances.
- The day when he tells the truth to Rita and his final day in the Groundhog Day Loop are merged in this version; he wakes up with the same woman to whom he has explained his situation, who hasn't forgotten as he expected and keeps believing him. Must make for an interesting relationship...
- A God Am I:
Rita: You're God?
- Gosh Dang It to Heck: "Don't you tell me you don't remember me, because I sure as heckfire remember you!"
- Groundhog Day Loop: Trope Namer.
- Heel Face Turn: Even if it did take ten years from his perspective.
- The Hedonist: Phil becomes this in some of the early cycles. When he realizes that no tomorrow means no consequence, he takes the opportunity to indulge in unhealthy food, wild behavior, and bedding various women through save-scumming.
- Heroic BSOD: While on camera:
Phil: This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. (raising his voice) What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. (turns to the crowd) You're hypocrites, all of you!
Phil: It's a... (silly voice) snowy day in Punxsutawney, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . . (serious) There's no way... that this winter... is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out. He has to be stopped (beat) and I have to stop him.
Larry: He could be ok!
- High Concept: Man is forced to relive one day over and over. A simple concept that allows for so many scenarios.
- Hug and Comment: The Ho Yay moment mentioned above.
- Ignored Confession: During the loop where Phil demonstrates his intimate knowledge of Punxsutawney's residents to Rita and she stays in his room with him, he confesses his love for her and kisses her on the cheek, but she doesn't hear any of it due to drifting off towards sleep. His awakening the next day marks his decision to use the loop to better himself.
- I'm Thinking It Over:
Cop: Now look, pal: you can either go back to Punxsutawney, or you can freeze to death. It's your choice!
- Incessant Music Madness: THEN PUT YOUR LIL' HAND IN MINE... ♫
- Inherently Funny Words: Gobbler's Knob, site of the groundhog ceremony. It's a real place in Punxsutawney, PA, too. It just doesn't look like it does in the movie because it wasn't filmed in the real Punxsutawney. Punxsutawney... heck, that's a funny word, too!
- Instant Expert: Not to the audience, since Phil puts plenty of hours in, but he certainly appears this way to other characters.
Piano Teacher: And you've never played before?
Phil: (to the breakfast lady) Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
- Jeopardy Intelligence Test: Played with. After a few days, the other guests at the B&B start to think Phil's a genius because he answers every question on that day's edition of Jeopardy! correctly, but of course the only reason he knows all the answers is that he's seen this particular episode over and over again.
- Jerkass: Phil most obviously, Ned somewhat less intentionally. It's also made pretty clear that Larry's a bit of a jerk as well.
- Karma Houdini: At least initially; Phil exploits the time loop to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants whenever he wants and avoid the consequences, and ends up repeatedly robbing, seducing, attacking, cheating and manipulating the townsfolk seemingly without punishment. Over the course of the movie, however, it becomes pretty clear that the time loop is his punishment, not only for his actions in the movie but for his whole Jerkass nature before the day began. A deleted idea that the loop was the result of a curse from a jilted ex-lover underscores this point.
- Kick the Dog: Phil towards the beginning of the movie.
- Don't forget Larry, too. At first, he just comes off as a guy who won't put up with Phil's crap, but the scene where he steals back his tip money is supposed to be an indicator that he's not a very nice fella (if you missed it, then his later comeuppance seems to come literally out of nowhere).
- Love Redeems: How Phil gets out of the time loop.
- Magic Realism
- Manipulative Bastard: Phil becomes one when initially trying to seduce Rita (see Save Scumming).
- Men Don't Cry: After Rita says that the perfect man for her wouldn't be afraid of crying, Phil responds with, "This is a man we're talking about, right?" And he himself subverts this belief later when he finally learns how precious life is through his futile attempts to save a homeless old man from dying of old age.
- Mental Time Travel: One of the possible explainations for the time loop.
- Mistaken for Gay: Phil pulls a Mistaken for Gay on Ned one day just to scare him off.
- Montage: Used effectively a couple of times.
- Mood Whiplash: Phil's protracted series of suicides and the montage in which he tries to save the old man are a little bit jarring.
- Never Heard That One Before: Yes, his name is Phil. Like the groundhog.
- Nice Guy: What Phil finally becomes when he grows to love all of humanity, Rita included.
- No Endor Holocaust: The movie glosses over two things.
- 1: The immense psychological strain that would be placed on Phil getting used to surprises again after living a few lifetimes worth of the same day.
- Harold Ramis stated that Phil lived the equivalent of 10,000 years. So, whatever psychological state Phil was in, he passed it. Maybe he committed suicide for a few hundred years? Towards the end of the DVD commentary, Ramis suggests that, based on how well Phil can play the piano now, he was probably learning for ten years. The time frame is open to interpretation.
- It takes a good 5 years minimum to learn a language to fluency. He must have spend months in the library to be able to speak French THAT well.
- 2: Given the suggested timespan there must have been days when he did incredibly cruel things to relieve his frustration, but those days aren't shown.
- Ramis and the screenwriter said they deliberately avoided one of the logical extremes that Phil could have done: create despair and kill people with no consequence. They decided to avoid the sadistic possibilities of the time loop. Presumably, the fact that, even at his worst, Phil has enough of a moral compass to avoid murder and overt sadism is one of the things that helps him on the road to redemption.
- 1: The immense psychological strain that would be placed on Phil getting used to surprises again after living a few lifetimes worth of the same day.
- Nothing Left to Do But Die: An extremely bored and depressed Phil kills himself multiple times. Then in a subsequent scene he lists each one to Rita as a shocked waitress looks on. Hilarity Ensues.
- Off the Rails: Phil tries this by kidnapping the groundhog, going on a car chase, and getting both of them killed. It doesn't work.
- The Power of Love: Only by winning Rita's heart does Phil break the time loop.
- Punch, Spin, Gape: Phil decking Ned in the street. Andie MacDowell jokes in a featurette about what a ham Steve Tobolowsky is.
- Ring Ring CRUNCH: Phil does this to his clock radio that won't stop playing "I Got You Babe" every morning at 6:00.
- When he's finally out of the loop, the song starts at a totally different part with the alarm, and the radio show host says, "Oh no. Not again."
- Rousseau Was Right: The film's message: There is love, kindness and decency in everyone; you just need time to bring it out.
- Save Scumming: An unusual non-video-game example of this trope.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The many errands Phil runs as he spends longer and longer in the loop.
- Snow Means Love: Several times. Alternately, exactly once. Time travel.
- Talk About the Weather: Mrs. Lancaster tries to make small talk with Phil by talking about the weather — unfortunately, he's pissed off and he's a weatherman.
Mrs. Lancaster: There's talk of a blizzard.
- Ted Baxter: Phil before the loop. He invariably responded to greetings with, "Hi, thanks for watching."
- Typecasting: Mostly Bill Murray, alternately played straight and inverted during the course of the movie, but a couple of the others could be described as such too.
Roger Ebert: The Murray persona has become familiar without becoming tiring: The world is too much with him, he is a little smarter than everyone else, he has a detached melancholy, he is deeply suspicious of joy, he sees sincerity as a weapon that can be used against him, and yet he conceals emotional needs.
- Understatement: Phil tells Rita that "My years are not advancing as fast as you might think."
- Viewers Are Goldfish: Subverted by this film and many others that use Groundhog Day Loop plot devices, as each repetition has variations.
- Viewers are Morons: Phil believes most of his audience are ("People like blood sausage: people are morons").
- What Could Have Been: The original script featured the explanation for the unending loop and its escape clause, but they found by leaving it out made the film more magical.
- Considering the original explanation involved a curse by an ex reading a "how to do magic" book, it's less "making the film more magical" and more "removing the idiocy".
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: After the film's debut, the director was called several times by various religious groups, all claiming he was secretly one of them.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: It's 6am in this case. True, Phil relives Groundhog Day proper every day, but it's from 6am February 2nd to 5:59am February 3rd. Lampshaded once when Rita expects him to "turn into a pumpkin or something" at 12 midnight.
- You Can't Fight Fate:
Then put your little hand in mine...