Why Groundhog Day is more than comedy.
Groundhog Day (1993) starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell is a classic comedy about a TV Weatherman named Phil who wakes up on the same day over and over again. Most have seen this movie and love it, it is Bill Murray at his absolute best, well-written and directed by the late Harold Ramis. While this is a great movie to watch especially during recent times for some great laughs and a universal message of becoming a better individual to find true love. What most do not realize is that this classic film has a powerful subtext about community and true happiness from the monotony of life.
Phil is an unhappy man, he is unhappy with his job and unhappy with his position in life. When he finds himself stuck on the same day Phil this unhappiness is personified. This is representative of the monotony of everyday life that leaves us hating Mondays and looking forward to the weekends. Once Phil realizes his predicament he starts to treat life as if he could do anything with no consequences, essentially becoming a nihilist. Synonymous with the weekend life of drinking, drugs and the hashtag #Yolo.
However, when Phil's newfound "powers" do not deliver the woman of his dreams, Rita (Andie MacDowell) he becomes depressed and suicidal. Something you find common with those who live a reckless life is depression and a desire to forget one's life, Phil's situation represents this state of mind.
Phil doesn't break this cycle until Rita suggests he reads, he takes her advice and studies philosophy and poetry. He becomes particularly interested in an old homeless man whom he feeds and attempts to revive several times. Giving up and looking to the heavens, Phil devotes himself to creating the perfect day helping everyone in Punxsutawney until Rita falls in love with him. Living happily ever after.
This ending is Phil's discovery of what the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas called "the other", meaning that an individual recognizes people around them not only themselves, hence Phil's desire to help the homeless man. When Phil looks to the heavens he realizes as something he alludes to earlier in the film, "only God can make a tree". Phil is not God, Phil can only help others by loving his neighbor as himself and this leads to his happiness. He attracts Rita and her love but most of all Phil begins to love himself and the people of Punxsutawney.