Groundhog Day

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A going-through-the-motions Pittsburgh weatherman (Bill Murray, letting plenty of antipopulist snarl and sneer show through), covering the annual Groundhog Festival for the fourth consecutive year in rustic Punxsutawney, Pa., is obliged by an unforecast blizzard to spend another night in the same damn bed-and-breakfast. He wakes up the next day to find that it is not the next day, but the very same day — Feb. 2 — all over again: his personal definition of hell. (And a new variation on the nuclear-age poser, "What if there is no tomorrow?" — meaning not that there might be nothing tomorrow, but instead that there might be the same thing tomorrow.) Everyone else in town repeats his or her established routine; the hero alone has any awareness of the repetition or any freedom to alter it. This goes on day after day, indefinitely, with no consequences or carry-over from the day's events, always a clean slate at the next dawn. (The hero commits suicide several times.) The possibilities are, without exaggeration, limitless; and the movie goes through a goodly number of them, avoiding tedium but, inevitably, avoiding tough questions too. Many of the possibilities — not including a couple of run-of-the-mill car chases — are innately and richly cinematic, providing equivalences of re-takes, re-writes, re-edits. In a word (or three), the creative process. The ultimate possibility that a term in hell might bring about a bit of soul-searching, and that a regimen of practice, practice, practice, might indeed make perfect, is illustrative of another sort of process. It would not be too much to say that the general drift of the movie is unpompously didactic, unpretentiously philosophical, even unsanctimoniously spiritual. If Camus comes to mind ("The Myth of Sisyphus"), or Sartre, or Kafka, or Borges, it won't spoil the fun; it can even enhance it. With Andie MacDowell; directed by Harold Ramis. (1993) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG | 1 hour, 42 minutes
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