This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. In my invitation letter, I wrote: "The movie can be a documentary or fiction. It can be short or feature length. It can be live-action or animation. It can be obscure or well-known. It doesn't have to be your favorite film. In fact, you could write about a movie that disturbed you. The only thing that matters is that the movie blew your mind." See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark
Mind Blowing Movies: Groundhog Day (1993), by Ruben Bolling
[Video Link] When I think of "Mind Blowing Movies," I instantly think of the great science fiction films with twists and tricks that I've loved, like The Matrix, Starship Troopers, and Blade Runner.
But there's a movie that blew my mind with a very different kind of twist.
Groundhog Day is a high-concept movie that, although it's squarely a comedy, could also be considered science fiction or fantasy. In it, Time is playing a cruel and elaborate trick on TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), repeating the same day over and over as a metaphor for the angry rut he's in at the start of the movie.
Murray's performance, as always, is transcendent. And the screenplay is just about perfect, as it continually peels inventive comedic riffs off this premise. Yet these riffs also always work on the other, metaphorical, level for a man stuck in his life.
Phil reacts to his trap in turns with anger, boredom, recreational sex, felonies and desperation. But he keeps on waking up at 6:00 a.m. to the increasingly surreal sound of Sonny and Cher.
Eventually, he turns to the woman for whom he has actual romantic feelings, his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and tries to seduce her, using information he gains from constantly reliving this day. But no matter how he presses these advantages, he can't consummate the new relationship in a single day.
Finally, he levels with Rita, and spends His Day explaining what's happened to him, eventually convincing her it's true.
This is where, when I watched the movie on a chilly day in February of 1993 when it came out, I was sufficiently jaded in the conventions of mainstream movies, to be certain how the movie would end.
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