Friday, February 4, 2011
It's that Groundhog Day time of year again, and with February 2nd come and gone, I came across a few articles in which the author attempts the very movie-geekish goal of determining the exact number of repeated Groundhog Days experienced by weatherman Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, in the 1993 film Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day was Murray's 17th film, coming after several commercially successful films like Scrooged and Ghostbusters. MacDowell won the Saturn Award for Best Actress for her performance as the skeptical and hard-to-impress paramour Rita. Bill Murray put in an admirable and entertaining presence as the snide and self-centered Phil Connors character. Comedian Chris Elliot performed well in a supporting role as Larry the cameraman.
In Groundhog Day, Phil Connors finds himself repeating the same day in a seemingly endless series of iterations inspired by the science fiction concept of time loops.
Although the causal agent for Connors' state of existence is never revealed by the story, the desired consequences are revealed by Connors' progress through the emotional states of denial, euphoria, depression, resignation, and rebirth. Groundhog Day takes place in the world-famous groundhog weather-predicting town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
With the realization that an endless repetition of Groundhog Day implies no consequences to actions, Phil Connors engages in a slew of conquests of the town's eligible women, attempts several suicides, commits bank robberies, and kidnaps the town's live mascot Punxsutawney Phil.
Connors finally renews his humanity and redeems his character by learning skills such as 19th century French poetry, jazz piano improvisation, the art of ice sculpture, and chiropractic, all with the ultimate goal of winning the love of the recalcitrant Rita. Along the way, Phil learns to care for the people of Punxsutawney, taking an active role in making the citizens' lives better by performing various good deeds. I think that the change in Connors' character is best illustrated by his treatment of an old homeless man begging for change on a street corner. Several iterations show Connors walking by or otherwise refusing the homeless man's request, but later he provides a hearty last meal for the homeless man who dies in the evening on Groundhog Day.
Naturally, I decided to do my own count of the number days experienced by Bill Murray's character. Director Harold Ramis estimated about 10 years in a DVD commentary. In response to the wolfgnards.com calculation of 8 years, 8 months, and 16 days, Ramis later contradicted himself by stating, “I think the 10-year estimate is too short. It takes at least 10 years to get good at anything, and allotting for the down time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years…”. Blogger Simon Gallagher concurred with Ramis' second guesstimate in calculating that Bill Murray's character must have spent a grand total of 12,403 days, or 33 years and 358 days, culminating in the mutually supportive pursuits of self-perfection and the seduction of his lovely producer Rita, played by Andie MacDowell.
Here's my estimation of the number of Groundhog Days experienced by Phil: Figure in a total of about 55 days actually depicted or inferred to in the film, including scenes showing Phil waking up, robbing a bank, seducing local women, 8 days of dates with Rita + 8 days of showing Phil getting slapped by Rita, 5 days of mild depression involving memorization of Jeopardy answers and breaking the alarm clock,
the kidnapping of Punxsutawney Phil and death by driving off of cliff,
5 days of Phil's suicides + 7 days of inferred deaths/suicides, the realization that he may be an immortal being and Connors' reveal of this knowledge to Rita, the day Phil finally gives money to the bum and brings breakfast to Rita and Larry, the start of piano lessons, encounters with annoying Ned from high school,
looking after the homeless guy and trying to save his life, about ten days of performing good deeds and saving lives, and combine those 55 depicted and inferred days with a calculated or inferred 3 days of observation and practice prep for robbing the bank, 100 days of watching Heidi II, 2-3 years of learning French and French poetry, 6 months of practicing card throwing, about 2 years each to learn chiropractic and ice sculpture, and 3-4 years of practicing piano and learning
jazz improvisation, I come up with a grand total of 4,044 Groundhog Days lived by Phil Connors. Put in another way it's 11 years and 1 month (29 days). Add in some leisure time and you might very well get to the 30 – 40 years attributed to Ramis by Gallagher.