I’ve been on a mission to introduce the kids to movie classics from my youth over the school holidays.
Back To The Future was a big hit.
Big not so much.
Over the weekend we watched Groundhog Day. It didn’t go down terribly well either, especially with the seven-year-old, who struggled to get her head around the concept Bill Murray was reliving the same moments over and over, then altering them to suit his ends.
Me, on the other hand, I LOVED GROUNDHOG DAY. It made me laugh and it almost made me cry (a lot).
I think it was the message of redemption that got me.
And that it took Bill hundreds of attempts at the same day before he did it perfectly.
I am a pretty hard task master of myself. I beat myself up constantly about mistakes I make and things I could have done better. Then there’s my annoying habit of fantasising about the future more than living in the present.
So I felt this burst of relief and excitement as I watched Groundhog Day, on so many levels. It reminded me how hard it is to do the right thing all the time. That it would be hard to make a day “perfect” even if you had numerous chances to try again. It suggested there was release to be found in not expecting to get things right every time.
And then there was the moment when Bill’s character Phil finally achieved contentment and told Rita that “no matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.” Once he did that, time was finally allowed to progress to tomorrow.
I choked up throughout it all.
As James Parker writes at The Atlantic: “Drilling away in the Hollywood fashion, a hole here and a hole there, the makers of Groundhog Day appeared to have struck, almost by accident, a water main of meaning. The Message, as I heard it, was this: There is a way back, a way through the imprisoning mystery of yourself, a way back into life.”
He concludes: “Phil learns. He learns contentment, and he learns forgiveness, and he learns kindness. He sits in the Punxsutawney diner, happily reading—but he’s not just reading, he’s radiating Buddha-nature. It’s all expressed in the trajectory of his relationship with Rita. He wants her, he tries to seduce her—first with meanness, then by fraud, then with recitations of French poetry and engineered perfect moments. It is only when he gives up, when he accepts the blessing of her company, free from desire—at which point she, too, magically becomes a far more interesting character—that she is delivered into his arms.”
If it sounds like I’m swept up in some sort of religious fervour, I’m not alone. Screenwriter Danny Rubin has written a whole book – How to Write “Groundhog Day – about the movie. It’s mainly a scriptwriting 101, but he does admit that after the film was released: “I started getting mail from a remarkable cross section of people. The first note I remember came from a monk in Germany. He had discovered Groundhog Day as a perfect articulation of his Christian beliefs.” The monk’s letter was soon followed by mail from Kabbalists, Buddhists, Nietzscheans, and therapists, all swept up in the movie’s subtext.
And you just thought it was a romantic comedy …
Go on, rent it this weekend – you won’t be disappointed (well, the kids might be).
Any ideas on films from decades past that my seven-year-old and nine-year-old might enjoy? I’ve been pondering Flash Gordon (“Flash, ah-ah, he’ll save every one of us!” but it’s not on iTunes, neither is Raiders of The Lost Ark.)
I have to agree with your kids – Groundhog Day is really not good. I’d rate it as one star, if that! For some non-Hollywood classics, I’d suggest Storm Boy, The Secret Garden or Wind in the Willlows. All films my 8yo and 4yo love.
Absolutely love Groundhog Day too. I grew up on Gene Kelly musicals thanks to my dad and my kids love Singing in the Rain – it is on iTunes. “And I can’t stan’ ‘im”. 🙂
I love those old musicals too.
Groundhog Day is a great script. Movie suggestions from way back for kiddies….I still love the original The Muppet Movie. Oldies can play ‘spot the famous 70s star cameo’ all through it while kids just watch the muppets do their thing. The Goonies and The Neverending Story could be worth a look too.
My kids curl their lips at The Muppets. They don’t know what they’re missing. Will have to try the other two.
Another movie full Bill Murray quirky humour is What About Bob? and the Beethoven series of films, plus all the Home Alone were popular favourites with us. The Witches, based on Roald Dahl’s classic novel, is brilliant but not for young children (even Year 7 pale and quake during parts when I show it as a film study) 🙂