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Analyzing "Groundhog Day"

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1889 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Bill Murray plays Phil, an arrogant, self obsessed weather forecaster who goes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in preparation of a broadcast for the next day about the annual occurrence of the coming out of the groundhog – “Punxsutawney Phil”. As he wakes up in the morning and does records his coverage of the event, he is annoyed to find out that he will have to spend another night in Punxsutawney because of an incoming snowstorm. This is where things start to go wrong for Phil as in his earlier forecast; ironically, he predicted that the following days are going to be sunny.

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When he wakes up the next morning in his room he is very surprised to see that it almost looks like a repetition of the previous day! Everything that happened to him a day earlier — at the top of the stairs the same person trying to talk to him; the old high school friend, Ned, recognizing him on the street, the ceremony of the groundhog day – everything starts to repeat. Phil spends the day in shock and thinking it is a bad dream but at the end of the day he is stuck in Punxsutawney because of the snowstorm again. When he wakes up the next morning, everything is the same as the previous days, and he again gets stuck in the town for the snowstorm. By this time Phil realizes that this is not just a bad dream, so he starts to look for ways to get out of the situation and remove him from this time loop.

Soon Phil realizes that if he doesn’t change anything, the events repeat themselves similarly to the first day. But if he only changes his behavior towards the townsfolk, they respond to his actions, which eventually help him reach his goal of winning the heart of Rita. With each repeating day, Phil is the only one who remembers what happened in previous iteration of the same day.

At first Phil is awed by this surreal event. As the days keep repeating Phil begins to treat life as a game since nothing he does seem to matter, and the next day is a fresh start of the same scenario: no matter what he does, time resets and he wakes up as if nothing happened. But as the days pass endlessly repeating itself, Phil eventually finds a purpose: get to know as much as he can about Rita, so he can seduce her. When all his tries to win Rita’s heart fails day after day, his despair deepens, and he loses his will to live and begins to spend his days killing himself. In desperation, he reveals his plight to Rita and hesitantly she spends the night with him. But again, Phil wakes up to the same music of Sonny and Cher.

But, spending a night with Rita makes him realize that someone actually liked him for who he is, he comes to a revelation — he begins to live the life he never lived before. Phil starts to take control of circumstances, aided by the fact that he has plenty of time and the safety of starting from scratch if he messes up. He begins to take piano lessons, he learns how to be an ice sculptor, and he becomes more generous. Phil, knowing how the events in the day will happen, begins to use this knowledge to start helping town’s people. As he suffered through the repeating days to come to this point, Phil starts to transform and empathizes with other people’s suffering. He becomes a local hero in Punxsutawney. Finally, Rita falls in love with the new Phil, attracted by his generous personality and maturity. He falls asleep by the side of her and when he wakes up she is still there and the curse is broken.

In her expert analytical article “The Spiritual Power of Repetitive Form: Steps Toward Transcendence in Groundhog Day”, Suzanne M. Daughton explains how a modern romantic comedy such as Groundhog Day has a deeper meaning than just entertainment for the viewers. She explains that the movie portrays the lead actor as a stereotypical male figure with ego boundary that, at the start of the film, keeps every other character away from him. When he is trapped in the time loop of repeating days it takes Phil nearly 34 days to break all the barriers and to finally embrace the situation to use it to his advantage. Daughton describes Phil’s character before transformation as: “Phil Connors, miserable cynic: self-centered, abrasive, and deservedly friendless.” When Phil progresses to different transformations in the movie Daughton lists these stages that Phil goes through as: cynicism, alarm, hedonism, depression and anger, denial and avoidance, resignation, acceptance and growth. The list describes all the emotions Phil goes though to reach his final stage where is becomes the ideal male and is able to win Rita’s heart and break the curse. Groundhog Day shows that the turning point in Phil’s life is when he starts to build relations with the common people and start to communicate. According to Daughton, “Groundhog Day has more to do with its protagonist coming to appreciate the stereotypically feminine focus on connection with others, than with reinscribing the stereotypically masculine individuation and domination glorified in films. Unlike other change-of-heart films, Connors does not renounce independent thought and retreat to little-boy status; instead he grows out of certain boyhood beliefs and practices.” At the end of the film Phil starts his acceptance and growth phase where he breaks the traditional stereotypical masculinity and accepts feminism to break the loop.

Favorite film and its communication relevance

My favorite film is When Harry Met Sally.. It is a simple romantic comedy on the surface but digging deeper into the characters reveals a lot about how males and females communicate with each other within their gender and how this gender based communication is very different than that of their counterparts. Harry approaches Sally as if she was his male buddy and very soon he steps out of the boundary of their newly formed relationship by asking her questions such as has she ever had great sex. This is not an appropriate question for that stage of the relationship, and it makes Sally defensive and uncomfortable. Harry portrays himself as an accomplished, cocky person and Sally starts to reveal more about her personal life to prove to Harry that she also has led a successful life like Harry. In the movie both character experiences interpersonal communication. Our text Reflect and relate defines it as a dynamic form of communication between two or more people in which the messages exchanged significantly influence their thoughts, emotions, behaviors and relationships. An example of this is the scene when Harry and Sally happen to run into each other at the bookstore; they talk and communicate as matured person, unlike the first time they met. As their friendship deepens and they both deal with their breakups, they start to depend on each other for support and their friendship deepens. Eventually we see that they begin to fall for each other. This is interpersonal communication by definition as their communication is changing the way they feel about each other. At the party, seeing one another with other dates become a concern even though, they did not reveal to each other that they want to move to the next step. They both share things with the other that they wouldn’t share with anyone else. These are all examples of interpersonal communication developed by the characters in the film where their actions are being influenced by their relationship.

Film I didn’t care for

The film I didn’t care for is “Children of a Lesser God.” The film revolves around the characters Sarah and James, and their relationship. Sarah is deaf and does not use her voice; James is a new teacher at the school who is not deaf and falls in love with Sarah. There are several communication issues presented throughout the film such as: the dialectical tension of autonomy between Sarah and James, social exchange theory which explains why people are drawn to those people that can offer them ‘substantial benefits,’ social penetration theory, uncertainty reduction in a relationship etc. The film shows very well how to progress in a relationship when it is new and when it has matured. We see Sarah and James eventually realize that even though they want to be independent and live their own way, if they want to stay in a relationship the best way to move forward is to compromise and come to a middle ground that both can live with. The reason why I don’t care for this film is because of the plot and background of the movie which is not a good fit for the majority of the people who has never experienced being a deaf or mute. While the film opens our eyes to the deaf culture and brings many communication issues to light, it is hard to relate to in comparison with our regular life. To me it feels like the film has almost a documentary like feeling to it than a movie. On the other hand I can relate to characters like Harry from When Harry Met Sally, or Phil Connors from Groundhog Day because we have seen people like them in real world. We have all met with someone at some point who was cocky and annoying or someone who asked inappropriate questions. That is the only fundamental flaw of the “Children of a Lesser God” in my opinion.

Useful concepts in R&R, and the articles

There are several useful concepts from R&R which helped to analyze the films such as interpersonal communication, self-fulfilling prophecy, communication competence, supportiveness and empathy, uncertainty reduction, pseudo-listening and active listening etc. The articles were also helpful in finding even deeper meaning behind the character and plot of the film, but I feel like some of them went too deep for the scope of the class such as SM Daughton’s Groundhog Day article that explained a lot about how the character breaks out of stereotypical male model and embraces feminism to grow and mature. My favorite article is “Crossing the barriers to friendship between men and women” by Lee west et al. The film When Harry Met Sally, and the article helps a lot in understanding which mistakes males typically make when communicating with other gender. How can we make the relationship smoother and what are the things to avoid. This is a good learning opportunity for all of us presented in a comedic way by the film. Overall all the films and articles touched on different topic within communication that will be helpful in our daily lives as we strive to create better, fulfilling relationship with other around us.

Works Cited

“Groundhog Day: The Movie.” Groundhog Day: The Movie. Transparency, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. .

“The spiritual power of repetitive form: Steps toward transcendence in Groundhog Day”, Daughton SM. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 1996

McCornack, Steven. “Interpersonal Communication.” Reflect & Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. N. pag. Print.


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