The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And in lieu of doing a normal Scriptnotes this week we want to talk about a director, we want to talk about a writer, an actor — a filmmaker who made a movie that was incredibly influential to both of us — and so this is going to be one of those episodes we’re going to just talk about one movie the whole time. And this is Craig’s idea, so Craig, what is your idea?
Craig: Well, we lost one of the greats. Harold Ramis passed away about a week ago. And not only did Harold Ramis direct and write, he was an actor, he did everything. And he was for anyone who writes comedy he was the giant of my generation.
John: I agree. He was incredibly influential. But let’s just talk through some of his credits as a writer and then going into him as a director. Caddyshack. Meatballs. Groundhog Day, which we’re going to talk about today. Multiplicity. He was the guy who sort of started off with this idea of like the slob comedy, the slobs against the —
Craig: Slobs versus snobs.
John: Yes. He was always the rebels against the institution kind of comedies. And then progressed into the movie we’re talking about Groundhog Day today, which is basically I think the template of what so many comedies tried to do afterwards. Without Groundhog Day you wouldn’t have a lot of these other movies.
Craig: No question. To give him his full due, in terms of his writing, and we are primarily a screenwriting podcast, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters.
Craig: Back to School. A lot of people don’t know that he wrote on that. And, of course, Groundhog Day. And also Analyze This and Analyze That. Just incredible. Just incredible. And then as a director he directed Caddyshack and he directed National Lampoon’s Vacation which was written by John Hughes, I believe. And he directed Groundhog Day.
And just a remarkable man who I think until Groundhog Day was underappreciated. I think that it’s easy maybe in the time of comedies — comedies are rarely properly appreciated in their time. It was easy to think that Ramis was part of this gang of guys that made slobs versus snobs comedies and they were broad and they were over the top and they were outrageous and drug-fueled. And all that is true.
But there was a humanity to all of those movies, particularly when he and Bill Murray collaborated that frankly is as rich and valuable as any of the humanity that you get from the great dramatic films. And Groundhog Day, I think, practically everyone would agree is the peak, is the peak of that.
John: With Groundhog Day you’re taking the idea of one of these sort of grownup man-child people who has just not progressed enough and giving them a chance to practice to the point where they actually grew up and become the man they really should be. And that feels like an important evolution in comedy overall, but certainly the kind of comedies that he was making and the kind of comedies that we aspire to make.
It also created, I think, a template for what a high concept comedy could be, which is basically you have a man in a predicament and these are all the things that are going to go wrong. He is uniquely the one person affected by it. And over the course of this adventure has to learn to change. And that idea of like here’s a man in a normal situation, goes into a crazy situation, and as a comedy we are going to arc until he gets through it.
So, without Groundhog Day we don’t have Liar Liar, we don’t have Multiplicity, we don’t have so many of these comedies. We don’t have a lot of those Adam Sandler comedies, too, where it’s one guy in an extraordinary, high concept comedic conceit.
Craig: Yeah. It certainly set the tone for what I would call the modern version of that. There’s a long comic tradition of this. In a sense It’s a Wonderful Life is a great prototype for this kind of movie, with a bit of a comedy and a bit of a mock-ish film as well. But a supernatural interruption of a normal guy’s life causes him to examine his life. Heaven Can Wait predates Groundhog Day.
There are many examples, but interestingly Groundhog Day is probably the best of all of them because everything is right in it. And when I say everything is right — you have to start initially with Danny Rubin’s idea. There are a ton of big supernatural life interruption ideas out there. And some of them are really interesting. For instance, what if you couldn’t tell a lie? What if you were god for the time being?
But there is something about you’re going to live this day over and over, which is an idea that had been explored a number of times in other areas, that lend itself so perfectly to this genre that said you put a million screenwriters in a room and you’re going to get 999,999 lesser scripts than Groundhog Day.
John: Well, that essential idea of you are repeating the same day again and again is kind of a Twilight Zone idea. And there are a lot of ways you could do this that is basically a thriller or is Memento. There’s a version of it that’s that.
So, to be able to see the comedic possibility in that and not just as a single joke but as an ongoing progression of growth for a character is really smart and is part of the reason why this movie works.
So, we should say, Groundhog Day is credit to Danny Rubin, story; screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis. Directed by Harold Ramis.
And I think we should just start talking about the movie, because this is will be one of those things where we actually go through the whole thing and really talk through it. And as we kind of come upon these realizations about sort of how this movie is working, let’s talk through them.
Craig: Yeah. Sounds great.
John: So, this is a Columbia Pictures and I always love watching old Columbia Pictures because you sort of see the evolution of the logo. I love the evolution of all film logos.
Craig: [laughs] I know.
John: And there’s a piece which I’m going to link to on the evolution of the Warner Bros. logo that came out this week which is actually genius. You sort of see like how the shield came to be and how it stayed the shield for so long and then it became that weird WB for awhile. And then it got back to the shield.
This is a Columbia Pictures logo and it’s the pre-Annette Bening Columbia Pictures.
John: Because there’s a moment in time where it was shifted to the woman, Columbia looked like Annette Bening. And this is still the old one.
We come up on blue skies. We see Bill Murray in front of the weather map. And so right from the very first frames we’re seeing who Bill Murray is in front of the blue sky weather map. Essentially he’s fake. He’s faking the weather. He’s having a good time with it. He’s really jovial on-camera. And then very quickly we’re going to see that he has a completely different off-screen persona and he doesn’t get along with anybody.
Craig: Right. He ends the telecast, his news broadcast, by announcing that he will — as he has done before — he’s going to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania because Groundhog Day is coming up. And his co-anchor says, “Oh, yeah, that will be your third year in a row?” And he looks at her, “Fourth. Fourth.” And we know, oh god, he doesn’t want to go at all.
Here’s what’s so fascinating about this section. This is what happens prior to Phil, his new producer Andie MacDowell, and his cameraman Larry, played by Chris Elliott. Here’s what happens before they hit the road to Punxsutawney. Phil does his weather broadcast. It’s quite funny. And it’s perfectly charming Bill Murray. He sits down next to the news anchor to finish the report and we get the sense that he’s actually not thrilled about what he has to do.
Craig: He has a very brief discussion in which he says he plans on staying in Punxsutawney for about three minutes, whatever the minimum is. He hates going there. He looks at his new producer, Rita, who he’s intrigued by but yet states very clearly, “Ain’t my kind of girl,” because she looks like a nice girl. And that’s it.
Then they’re on the road. Here’s what is so interesting to me about how this movie begins. We don’t see him alone at home. We don’t know how he lives. We don’t know anything about his life. We never learn if he was married, had a girlfriend, dog died, nothing. He just meets Rita. Her character is established as such: she’s giggling in front of the blue screen and that’s it. [laughs]
Craig: We don’t know any backstory of his relationship with his cameraman Larry. There are a thousand studio notes that I can see piling up right now that Ramis and Rubin decided to not do. They just said, screw it, it’s Bill Murray. He’s a bit of a jerk. There’s Andie MacDowell. She’s very sweet and nice. Let’s go.
John: So, one of the first lines of dialogue in the movie is, “Somebody asked me today, Phil, if you could be anywhere today where would you want to be?” Which is, of course, establishing the entire premise of the movie we’re about to see. It doesn’t feel like it’s establishing, but it is.
On the podcast we’re often doing the Three Page Challenge and everything we’re talking about here — this was three pages. This was at most three pages.
John: We’ve established all of this stuff about that he’s going to Punxsutawney, that they’re in Pittsburgh, he’s going to go to Punxsutawney. He doesn’t want to go to Punxsutawney. He’s been there way too many times. He doesn’t think this producer is anything worth noting. And that he’s a very different person on-screen than off-screen. It’s a tremendous amount of work packed in here.
What’s also fascinating to me is we started credits over a blue sky and a blue screen.
Craig: Yes. Yes.
John: And then we stopped, we took a pause off the credits, and then we’re going to go back into credits and we’re going to have a song called I’m Your Weatherman playing as we’re driving from Pittsburgh to Punxsutawney, which is again very classically sort of establishing your world. This is what it looks like. This is going from the big city to the small town. Because without it, without that driving sequence we would not have a sense of how small Punxsutawney is and that it really is a drive, because that drive is going to become an important factor later on in the film.
Craig: That’s right. We have, on page three or four we’ve already left our old comfortable life behind. We’ve begun our adventure. One interesting thing to note that we’ll come back to at the end is that the initial credits pre-weather sequence, pre-intro of Phil are time-lapse, it’s time-lapsed photography of clouds moving rapidly across the sky.
Craig: So, we arrive in Punxsutawney and Phil is, as they’re approaching, Phil is doing his thing with Rita. He is being a jerk. And she’s picking up on the fact that he’s a bit of a jerk. What we’re learning about him and this is why — sadly, this was the last collaboration between Ramis and Murray. No one quite knows why. But, at this point you could see that they had evolved to an almost shorthand where Murray could essentially say, “Here’s what my character is. It’s this version of Bill Murray.” There’s a few of them. This is the arrogant jerk Bill Murray.
Craig: And we get it pretty quickly that the thinks he’s god’s gift. He thinks he’s better than everybody. He thinks he’s too good for his surroundings. And, frankly, even thinks he’s too good for Rita.
They pull up in front of the Pennsylvania Hotel where he throws a little bit of a tantrum on not staying here, “I don’t want to stay here, it’s terrible.” And she surprisingly says, “Actually I booked you a nice little bed and breakfast. You’re not staying here. I’m staying here.”
And he’s quite pleased with that. And off he goes to his bed and breakfast which becomes — and we’ll have no idea at this point in the movie if we’ve never seen it before — becomes home base for the entire film.
John: Yes. So, we arrive in Punxsutawney at 6 minutes and 30 seconds into the film, establishing that hotel sequence and him going to the bed and breakfast. Establishing the borderline sexual harassment happening, like, “You could help me with my pelvic tilt,” that kind of stuff.
Craig: That’s right.
John: That kind of banter between them. But then we are into the bed and breakfast. We don’t really even establish the bed and breakfast. He basically shows up there and then he’s waking up.
Craig: Very smartly we do not establish anything but that bedroom.
John: Yes. At 7 minutes and 35 seconds the clock flips over to 6am. Sonny and Cher sing I Got You Babe. There’s really annoying radio banter, which even the first time you hear it is really kind of annoying and cheesy, talking about the National Weather Service. There’s a big blizzard coming. And it feels like the way many movies would start, which is basically like the day has started. Now the day has started.
Craig: That’s right. And I just want to point out that there’s a great lesson for all of us, no matter what we’re writing, from the way that the morning wakeup occurs. Danny and Harold understood as a circumstance of the story they were telling that every aspect of this wakeup moment had to be very carefully considered because they were going to repeat it multiple times.
As such, you can tell that it’s been imbued with great care. The choice of the song. The choice of the clock, the style of clock, the way it flips over, the time itself. The banter between the radio guys, their words which later will actually be thematically interesting. All chosen very carefully.
And I just want to point out is the side advice for us all, for me, and for you, and everybody listening is the truth is all movies eventually become Groundhog Day. They will be watched over and over and over. You might as well try and imbue everything with that amount of care because they knew that you were going to have to watch that scene five, six, seven times within one move, but all scenes will be watched five, six, or seven times if you get what I’m saying.
John: Yes. Well, also I would say as a filmmaker you’re always kind of making Groundhog Day because you’re going to have to witness those scenes a thousand times, in filming them, in editing them, in watching them on the screen in front of an audience. So, another good reason to make sure all those scenes are excellent.
Now, what we wouldn’t know if we were going into this movie blind is that everything we’re seeing here has to work in the moment, the first time we’re seeing it, and has to have a special resonance when we’re seeing it the second time through.
So, we’re establishing the pattern of what the day is supposed to — the default pattern of what the day is going to be. And so unless Bill Murray changes something, this is exactly how the day will play out. So, he’s going to get dressed, he’s going to go downstairs, he’s going to have an interaction with the bed and breakfast house — the woman who runs the bed and breakfast.
John: Now, many movies would have established her the night before, here we didn’t. Here, the first time we’re seeing her is down there at the moment. It’s a chance to learn a little bit more about him, how he’s just kind of a jerk. He’s just on that edge of like you kind of fundamentally don’t like him.
Craig: Yeah. He asks her for an espresso. She doesn’t really know what that is. He mutters some stuff, “You probably couldn’t even spell it.”
There’s a sequence of things that happen here prior to him arriving. So, you know, he wakes up, he gets dressed while he’s listening to this idiotic banter. And then he —
John: Oh, the hallway. Yeah.
Craig: Yeah. And basically there are four things that happen that they chose very carefully that represent what it means for Bill Murray in the morning. I mean, we know there’s wakeup, but then they wanted four things that they — again, we are going to see over and over and over. He bumps into a very cheery man in the hallway. Then he has a discussion with Mrs. Lancaster, the innkeeper. And the discussion is mostly about nonsense except for the final bit where she asks him if he’s going to be checking out. Then as he’s walking he encounters two people — one, a homeless man that he does not acknowledge, and then Ned Ryerson.
Ned Ryerson, who is a former high school classmate that Phil does recognize, he is incredibly annoying. And at the end of that encounter he steps in a slushy puddle.
Those four things are wonderful. They’re brilliant because they are mundane. Even the Ned Ryerson bit is sort of mundane. But they are picked so carefully and cleverly because they are repeatable in interesting ways.
And if I may just add one other thing. In comedy we’re always talking about pushing against something. That you have a character that has to have something in the world to push against. And what Harold and Danny did so well was immediately start constructing things around Bill Murray that he must push against. They in and of themselves are not that wacky, or funny, or interesting. It’s him pushing against them that’s interesting.
John: And they’re all actually distinct. So, the guy in the hallway is like so cheery, he’s kind of alarming. The woman downstairs, Mrs. Lancaster, she’s perfectly nice and she’s trying to make just normal chitchat and he sort of blows her off. Ned Ryerson is an important distinction because he’s really annoying and obnoxious. And so it creates some sympathy for Bill Murray’s character from us because he’s just really annoying. And we’ve all been in that situation with like the overbearing guy.
John: So, in a weird way it puts us back on Bill Murray’s side.
The one thing I will say as people are hopefully going to rewatch the movie, one strange little discontinuity I noticed is after all that conversation about the coffee, and so Bill Murray does make himself a coffee, you see him take the coffee and the coffee does just sort of disappear at a certain point.
Craig: Yeah. And there’s another scene later where he pours himself coffee and then just doesn’t even take it. But we can imagine he tossed it or something.
John: It happens. So, even in like great films you will see little things like that, because they’re just so trivial that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect your enjoyment.
Craig: I really do think that the people that run these gaffes squad websites need to have their head checks for some sort of personality disorder.
John: Then we arrive at Gobbler’s Knob which you know they just had a delightful time every time they got to say Gobbler’s Knob.
Craig: I know. And then but also big points for not making dick jokes about Gobbler’s Knob.
John: No, they just stick it there. And there’s a fair number of sort of background jokes. Like when they first pull into town you see Heidi 2 on the billboard. And then we actually go there. I always thought it was just a background joke, but then you actually —
Craig: Yeah. They go to the movie.
John: They revisit it. So, this becomes a crucial set. And you can imagine they were probably there, god, they probably spent two weeks, or many days, at sort of the Punxsutawney Phil thing, which is basically this is Bill Murray meeting up with his producer and his cameraman to film the Groundhog Day, the same thing that’s supposed to be happening every year. And so we have the whole crowd. It’s establishing the details and making sure the details work for the first time and can work every time thereafter.
And so that every time you’re coming back to one of these moments it has to be distinct.
Craig: That’s exactly correct. They create — one thing that’s fun about this movie, touching on what you said earlier, is that it invites the audience into an experience that we as filmmakers have all the time which is reliving these moments over and over and over and over. We begin to soak in these environments, which is why when you make a movie you obsess over choosing the right locations and the right places. And when you can’t it’s so disruptive.
A side story. Marc Forster made a movie and I can’t remember which one it was, but there was a scene that takes place in a laundromat. And he found the perfect laundromat and then they couldn’t shoot there because of a permit issue. So, they had to settle for a different laundromat and he just can’t watch the movie. [laughs] It’s like that — it just makes him crazy because of the laundromat thing.
Well, so you can imagine how these guys felt when they were picking these locations. Not only would they have to relive them over and over but so would the audience. It’s perfect. Right? And what’s perfect about it is that Ramis did something that is rarely done well and that is a small town movie. It’s very hard to create a small town that doesn’t feel fake, that doesn’t feel corny. You get a good small town vibe from Back to the Future. You get a good small town vibe from this.
And one thing that this nails is that town center, Gobbler’s Knob, a place where all these people can meet and come together. And they’re having fun. They’re happy. Rita, Andie MacDowell’s character, is happy. She’s excited. She’s been up — he just gets there two seconds before he’s supposed to do his report. She’s been there for awhile, talking to people, hearing their stories. These people are fun.
She’s representing already something about herself in this town that is so foreign to him. And all he wants to do is finish this thing and get out of there. And they pull the big rat out, as he keeps calling it, pulls the groundhog out and unfortunately the groundhog has seen his shadow and there will be six more weeks of winter. Ah-ha.
John: Now, I found watching this again — I found the whole bit with the groundhog himself a little bit strange, because they didn’t try to do the whole shadow thing at all. It was really the groundhog was whispering some secret to the mayor.
John: That felt like they were sort of bending the rules, at least of my expectation about what that moment is supposed to be, not having ever really watched it. But that whole like groundhog speaking his secret language thing felt kind of odd to me. It didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the movie, but it was just not what I was expecting that to be.
Craig: I don’t know how the actual Groundhog Day ceremony goes, but here’s why if it does go that way that’s why they did it. If it doesn’t go that way, here’s why I think they made a great choice to do it the way they did it.
The worst thing in high concept supernatural comedies which is a genre, body switch movies, for instance — the worst thing is the moment of magic. It always makes me feel goofy. I love Liar Liar. I just never like the fact that the kid makes a wish and blows out the candles and then there’s a woosh and a tinkling.
This movie, they avoided that completely. And I think if an actual groundhog had wandered out of his hole and seen his shadow. It would have almost —
John: It would have felt like that was the magic.
Craig: Yeah, like the groundhog did it. You know? [laughs] And this movie is brilliant in its refusal to explain or acknowledge why this phenomenon occurs. And that helped.
John: In a general sense, why is the day repeating? It’s because he hasn’t grown up. He hasn’t learned his lesson. There’s no other mystical reason behind it. It’s because he needs to stay in that moment.
Craig: Yeah. What we get the sense of eventually is that Bill Murray simply is living wrong. And the movie — oh, and this movie has been dissected on the philosophical basis a billion times. The movie is about what it means to live well, what is the purpose of life given that it is essentially repetitious in nature and absurd and then eventually ends. How should one live best?
And while we’re at this point in the movie we’re not aware that that’s where the movie is taking us, we sure know one thing: Phil is not living well. And so whatever it is — whatever reason it happens — I often say that in high concept supernatural comedies we’re basically doing our version of a bible story where god reaches down and changes something and forces you to deal with it. And in dealing with it you become stronger and better.
John: Yeah. So, we do the live report, the filmed report from Gobbler’s Knob. They’re back in the van. They’re driving. At 15 minutes and 26 seconds the snow starts falling. The road is closed ahead. We’ve established that Bill Murray had predicted that there would not be snow and that therefore they would be able to get back, but he was wrong. He has an argument with a cop on the highway saying, “I make the weather.”
Craig: Not a great day player.
John: Not a great day player.
There’s a moment where all the long distance phone lines are down. There’s a payphone, which of course people would now say, “What’s a payphone? What are long distance lines?”
John: Essentially he’s trying to call home. This was a moment where I really had — I guess it’s important to establish overall that the long distance lines are down so that you don’t believe he could just reach out to some other person or some other friend outside of this bubble universe that they’re going to create.
Craig: That’s right.
John: It felt a little stutter-steppy to me, but essentially I ended up going with it. And so essentially ultimately our little town is going to be sort of cut off from the rest of Pennsylvania because of this storm, even though it’s not that bad of a snowstorm in our little town itself.
Craig: It is essential logic stuff. And, of course, we live in a time now that’s very frustrating for high concept writers because technology has blown through so many of the convenient barriers we can put in place. But it’s important to know exactly this, that the town has become an island. When he relives every day he will be reliving every day in one spot. One spot he cannot get out of. There will be no one else to talk to. There will be no Skype. There will be no plane that could come in.
He will live this day, in this place, without fail because, of course, he has agency, nobody else does. Everybody else is going through their day almost like figures in a cuckoo clock that come out every hour, you know. They’re going through the motions of existence. He’s not. He can do whatever he wants.
So, I thought it was necessary to do that. And the nice thing is it feels stutter-steppy in the moment because it feels like unnecessary who cares. Great, the highway is closed, and oh great, the long distance lines are down. Later on — we’ll never stop to think why doesn’t he do this or why doesn’t he do that?
John: Yeah. What they’re essentially doing is taking away the question.
Craig: That’s right.
John: They’re basically making it so that you’re not asking the question. And they’re partly — they’re taking the curse off of it with a joke, which is he’s on the operator saying, “I have to get through. There’s got to be a line. Can you get me on — an emergency line. I’m a celebrity. I’m a celebrity in an emergency,” and like the two things should trump all things.
So, it feels like it’s meant to be just a comedic beat when it’s essentially trying to take away some logic questions down the road.
Craig: There’s good craft there. They’re covering up their exposition with a joke. And they’re also helping it out a little bit by building it into his character and using it to show how desperate he is to not be in this place that he will now be in forever.
John: Yes. At 18 minutes and 25 seconds time loops. And the clock radio hits the morning and we are back at I Got You Babe.
John: The same radio DJs. The same moment. And so this is classic — this is the definition of a high concept/supernatural comedy moment where you realize that the universe has changed. And he is living the same day again and has to figure out what the rules of this new universe are.
Craig: That’s right. And in these moments, these are the fun ones. So, when you’re writing these things you know that there’s a — you get this period of disorientation which is fun to show. And you want to see your character reacting like a proper human that is shocked and concerned and freaked out. And letting them experience that with the audience, so they in the audience can experience disorientation.
The hard part is going to come after when you have to now navigate the treacherous sea of episodicism. And we’ll get to that in a minute. But right here they do it pitch perfectly. They do the fun part pitch perfectly. His response is to be concerned, puzzled, and to reach out for help, in a panicked sort of way. Nobody believes him. And then he does — Ramis appears in the movie at this point. He does exactly what a normal human should do. He goes to see a doctor who gives him X-rays. There is no tumor, there’s nothing.
He goes to see a shrink who is of no help at all. And then it happens, again.
John: Craig, you skipped ahead.
Craig: Oh, I did?
John: Actually, you skipped a whole loop. So, the first loop is actually just, “Did you ever have dÈj‡ vu, Mrs. Lancaster?” “I’d say the chance of departure is 80 percent.” Rita gives him a good hard slap on the face. He tries on the phone again, talking to the operator, who basically must have said like you can try it again tomorrow. And he’s saying, “What if there is no tomorrow?”
And we really just kind of jump cut through a lot of the day. At the very end of this day as he’s going to bed he breaks the pencil and sticks it inside of the clock radio.
Craig: Yeah, this is great.
John: And then he wakes up the next morning and the pencil is intact, which is again establishing the rules that like he cannot alter this universe at all. Everything he does will be undone again which is essentially the futility of existence manifest. There’s nothing he can do. He’s truly stepped in there.
So, this is where we get to the Harold Ramis and to the other folks. The first new set we see is at 27 minutes in, which is the Tip Top Cafe, which his another recurring set. We meet the waitress. He sort of tells Rita that he’s not going back. He basically for the first time tells Rita what’s going on.
John: And then we go see the doctor, Harold Ramis. X-rays. We see the psychiatrist who is really a couple’s counselor, so they’re playing some jokes here. And his going to the bowling alley with the morons. So, the morons who we established at the diner.
Craig: Right, okay. So, great, you’re right. I did rearrange some of the stuff. And I love — the pencil thing is really important because it’s the prove it for himself. They’re answering these questions that I think we don’t even know these are questions we ask, but, well, how does he know he’s not dreaming? How does he know this is real? How does he know…?
And apparently they shot a scene where Phil goes kind of nuts in his hotel room and trashes the whole thing and then passes out, falls asleep, and he wakes up in the morning, the hotel room is fine. And Ramis opted to delete that and just go for something far more elegant, which is the breaking of the pencil. It’s just creepier when he sees it.
But, no, you’re right. So, then he has his desperate attempts to seek help from a friend, medical attention, psychiatric attention. It doesn’t work. And that’s how he ends up in that bowling alley and that’s when he comes to realize something very important to himself and his condition. That is that there are no consequences.
John: Absolutely. So, and he gets to that no consequences thing by reflecting back like on this one perfect day he had where he was on the beach with two beautiful women and he’s like why couldn’t I have had that day over and over and over again.
Craig: “That was a good day.”
John: That was a good day. Why can’t I have that day? And, of course, the lesson will be like you need to make today that day.
But through these morons that he’s driving home, these drunk guys he’s driving home, he’s recognizing there are no consequences. And that feeds us into or first of really only two set pieces, things where you’re actually spending some money and driving some cars around.
So, this is where he’s risking life and limb. He’s smashing mailboxes. He’s driving on the railroad tracks. I’m not going to live by their rules anymore.
Craig: Right. And so this is the first big character choice that I think Rubin and Ramis have to make since the beginning of the movie. The beginning of the movie they make a character choice that I’m going to have a guy who is as Rita will explain a wretch. He’s a self-absorbed arrogant wretch who’s living life wrong. And then we put him in this position and he does not behave in any way other than selfishly as this condition arises.
In this moment they have a choice. What’s the first — once you get over the denial that it’s happening and you accept this is happening, what is your first response as a character to it? The first emotional response? And the first emotional response they give this guy is, “Oh good, I can just be — I can indulge my worst aspects with impunity. It is the ultimate childish reaction to what we will understand later is a gift.
So, rather than change he gets worse. And this is where the next sequence — well, describe the next sequence and the things that he does and I’ll point a little interesting something out.
John: So, at the end of this first driving sequence, the cops arrest him, he gets put in jail, and he has a real question of like, huh, will this change how everything works? And, of course, he wakes up the next morning and there’s no jail and like no policemen came looking for him.
Then he feels sort of strangely happy. He feels too empowered. And so he punches Ned in the face. He lets someone else step in the puddle. He gorges on foods at the restaurant in front of Rita. Like I don’t worry about anything anymore.
Craig: Right. And she delivers that wonderful poem, The Wretch.
John: Yes. Which felt, you know, I love this movie — every time she had to do poetry felt forced to me.
Craig: Well, you know, I love Andie MacDowell in this movie. Even though her character is fairly thinly drawn in the sense that it is a compendium of facts that Phil learns. What I love about her is that we’re actually learning about her through Phil. So, our experience of her seems odd because it’s the way his experience is. He’s collecting facts and information, trivia, and attempting to build a human being out of it.
But eventually we come to get this vibe from her. It’s hard to describe. I thought she was great and curiously great, you know, because it wasn’t like a bravura performance by any stretch, but she’s —
John: Well, I would say this and Sex, Lies, and Videotape are the two films where we really think of her as being, you know, that’s Andie MacDowell. That’s who you sort of want in your movie.
But I would agree that he’s collecting a compendium of facts because partly it’s because we are limited to POV to Bill Murray’s character, to Phil. There are no scenes in the whole film that don’t have him, except for one, which I’ll point out later on.
But he is driving, so we’re only seeing his point of view. I could imagine though a version in which Phil was watching her being awesome with somebody else, or sort of learning about her by not just facts but seeing her interact with other people which could be meaningful. That’s just an alternate version of how he could come to actually realize how incredible she is.
Craig: Right. I liked the poetry thing, also, because she pulls out this very remarkable thing. She recites a poem. And he barely notices. He barely notices that she spat out a poem whole, which most people would stop and go, “Whoa. How did you do that? How do you know about that poetry? Oh, I see you studied…”
Nothing. Not interested. Too busy shoving his face full of cake. And in this sequence, what I’ll call his impunity sequence, note that Phil using his powers — so punches out Ned Ryerson. He uses his powers to collect information about a woman named Nancy that he then has sex with because he’s leveraging that information as if he knows her.
John: It’s the first time he’s using the power of the loop to do it. So, he’s asking her questions like, “Hey, didn’t we go to high school together,” blah, blah, blah, and gathering up all this information knowing that he’ll remember it the next time. He can use that to start the conversation the next loop.
Craig: Exactly. He uses his awareness, his practiced awareness of the rhythms of the town that keep repeating over and over to steal a massive bag of money from the back of an armored truck. He shoves his face full of food because he’ll never have to worry about gaining a pound.
He does whatever he wants. And note that when we talk about lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, the dude is making his way through the list of deadly sins.
Craig: He is absolutely wallowing in decadence, true biblical decadence because he’s untouchable. And he then makes the inevitable and critical mistake and also best thing which is to now extend that power to a wooing of her. If the child can have everything he wants, surely he can get the thing he wants the most. And that’s her.
John: That’s Rita. So, to his credit he does say — we’re 44 minutes in — he does ask Rita about herself. For the first time he actually asks her about herself. And he seems kind of interested in sort of what it is that she’s after. But then they have a conversation at the bar and this is the first time in the movie just jump cuts a scene from day to day to day, staying in the same set, same moment.
So, this is where she orders a drink and he takes note of what the drink is. And the next time he orders the same drink and keeps building. And so you sort of see the escalation of how he is — being able to anticipate every one of her moves and therefore become fascinating to her.
Craig: That’s right. And what we’re watching is a man in pursuit of something cheating. He’s cheating. It’s pure and simple. He’s asking her questions and getting answers that he users later on to test. He will order a drink that’s the same drink that she gets because he knows because he’s done it a bunch of times. But then he makes a toast to the wrong thing. He buys her the wrong food. He fixes that. He is cheating because he’s not interested in being honest. He doesn’t love her, he just wants her. So, he is collecting whatever he can to manipulate her all for the purpose of possessing her.
John: He’s putting on a performance with the goal of getting her to bed.
Craig: And here’s what’s so fascinating, and this is why I think this movie resonates beyond its concept. He’s willing to get slapped in the face 50, 60 times, it doesn’t matter, because he’s moving inexorably towards having her. But, you can see what’s tripping him up. Why does he fail?
Well, he gets her into his room. And he tells her, “I love you.” And when he says that we can think, well, it’s just another lie he’s telling that backfires terribly because from her point of view what do you mean you love me, we’ve known each other for a couple of days. Of course, he’s known her now for months and months.
So, is he lying? No. You get the feeling that when that comes out it’s like there’s this good guy in him that said something, that violates the careful practiced seduction, the cheating seduction of this woman. That’s the thing that trips him up and he can’t recover. There is no way from that point forward through his multiple efforts — no way for him to get past the slap in the face.
And now we arrive at maybe what I think people think of as the defining section of this film and tonally why this film is special.
John: Let’s pause there for one second because I know what you’re getting to, but I want to point out one very clever thing they do right here. So, this perfect date that happens, and so we sort of see him building into it and then we come to them at Gobbler’s Knob, at night, they’re building a snowman, the kids are throwing snowballs. He throws back in just the right ways. They collapse in the snow. They start dancing to But You Don’t Know Me, again, a perfect song choice for that.
And she says, “This has been a perfect day. You couldn’t plan a day like this.”
John: Which is, of course, telling. But when she says know and he’s trying to get her to say and she’s like, “I could never love a man like you,” we see him try the same date again and fail.
John: And so we see him racing through — he’s manic.
Craig: Oh, desperate. Desperate.
John: And he’s desperate. And so we see him doing the same things, but doing them worse.
John: And it all falling apart. And that leads us into this montage. And then we get to our moment.
Craig: And that’s a great, I’m glad you brought that up, because the second snowball fight shows that he’s lost.
Craig: You know, Phil is a guy that has been, even though life has taken him out of control by making him relive the same day, day after day, very predictably he has managed to control that also. So, now he is using the repetition to his advantage to sleep with women, and to steal money, and to punch people out, and eat what he wants. And he’s attempting to control his relationship with Rita as well to get to the place where he can finally sleep with her.
And now that he’s said I love you to her and he’s in love with her without even realizing he’s in love with her, he’s lost — his ability to rig the game is slipping away from him. He is desperate. He’s a man who realizes there’s a chance that this will never happen. There’s a chance that I will live here now forever and never get you. And what was seemingly heaven has turned to hell.
Craig: And this, of course, parallels our regular lives. We don’t live the same day over and over and yet we sort of do. And there comes a point where we’re confronted with the absurdity of it.
Religion aside, I think everybody sooner or later has a moment where they ask, “Is there a point to this?” And the answer that comes to them is no. And if I’m trapped here and will always be trapped is there any possible way to make this stop? And the only answer is —
John: Yes, he literally says, “And I have to stop it.” He becomes convinced at this moment that the groundhog is the cause of all this.
Craig: Right. And that’s — by the way, brilliant choice. Because what you don’t want to have this character do is say have some long, tragic, talky, mopey scene where he buys a gun and a bullet and writes a sad note and then tries to kill himself. No, no, no, he thinks there’s utility yet. The way out is for me and this groundhog to go.
And so he kidnaps the groundhog. There’s a big car chase. And Rita and Larry watch as Phil makes the choice to drive off the cliff, end his life, and the groundhog’s life, Woodchuck, in the hope that either he will wake up and it will be tomorrow, or at least this torture will be over.
John: Yes. And of course he’s wrong.
Craig: He is. And we see his dead body.
John: Yeah. And that’s the one moment we break perspective.
Craig: Ah, there’s another one.
John: Oh, okay. So, he dies in that crash and we go through a montage where he tries different ways to kill himself. We see the toaster suicide. We see the truck. We see him jumping off the building. And so I thought the first break of POV was — the only break in the POV was Andie MacDowell and Larry the cameraman, they pull back the sheet and we see his dead body on the slab.
Craig: No, there is another time. And it’s meaningful.
John: It’s meaningful.
Craig: But, yes, it’s proving it to the audience, he’s dead. The guy died.
John: Truly dead.
Craig: Ooh, and then “So put your little hand in mine” and he’s awake again. And now, now this movie goes dark.
Craig: And it’s wonderfully dark. And this is where a great comic actor can deliver dramatic commentary about the human condition better than the best dramatic actor, because it’s safe with them. I don’t want — if I watch Meryl Streep try and kill herself I either want her to kill herself or I want her to survive and then I just want to cry a lot and watch her recover slowly. But Bill Murray can try and kill himself and somehow it’s still funny.
It’s funny in the darkest, sickest way because, you know, death —
John: It’s when a clown dies.
Craig: When a clown dies. Death is funny. Not ha-ha funny, but absurd funny. That’s what comedy is. It’s tying into how stupid life is, and wonderful. And so his first death is hysterical. I mean, again, Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis were so smart the way they escalated things.
First it’s a “we’re going to have a goal by killing myself and the groundhog.” Next, when he realizes, oh well, that didn’t work, he gets the toaster oven from poor Mrs. Lancaster and heads up into the bathtub and electrocutes himself. It’s funny. The way he does it is funny — just ka-tunk, ka-tunk on the thing and drops. That doesn’t work.
Next, he steps out in front of a truck and he does this thing that I have been obsessed with.
John: The hands up and surrender, that one?
Craig: That he puts his hands up and then he just makes a little talkie talkie motion with his hands. Like he’s beeping along with the truck horn. I’m like he’s so disassociated from existence at that point. It’s like he’s a ghost at this point. And he gets run over. And, no, he’s awake again. And he throws himself off a building. And it doesn’t work.
And now what do you do?
John: Well, you’re 1 hour and 4 minutes into the movie. And what does he do? He has a little revelation. He says to Rita in the diner, “I am a god. I’m not the God, I’m a god.”
Craig: Which again it’s just so great. [laughs] That is such a Harold — I don’t know if that was in Danny’s original script. That feels like such a Ramis line to me. It feels almost like a Ghostbusters line.
John: Yeah. Absolutely. Where it’s like I’m saying something huge and then I’m going to slightly diminish it, but in the way I’m slightly diminishing kind of —
Craig: “I’m not the God, but I’m a god.” [laughs]
John: So, he tells Rita about what’s going on. And it’s not the first time he’s actually told Rita that he’s reliving the same day. He did that before, but he tells Rita stuff about everyone in the diner, including stuff that we don’t know, which I think is really important. He’s pushing beyond the boundaries of just our experience with the movie to tell about this young couple, and she’s having second thoughts. And he seems sincere at the same time, too.
He actually seems to care a little bit more than we’ve ever seen him before.
John: And so she says, “Okay, well as a science project how about I just stay with you the whole day.” And he agrees. And it becomes their first day date that is not manufactured in a way, where he’s actually being honest with her about what’s going on.
Craig: That’s right. There’s this moment in Shogun. I love that novel. Have you ever read Shogun?
John: I’ve never read Shogun.
Craig: Ah, it’s great. I mean, it’s trashy but it’s wonderful. And there’s this very cool moment where the feudal Japanese tradition of ritual suicide and the hero, who is a Dutchman that’s now living in Japan to become a Samurai himself, experiences something where he realizes he has to stop an injustice. And if the people who are in charge won’t stop the injustice then he’s going to kill himself because he cannot live with the dishonor.
And he doesn’t. He takes the knife out and he doesn’t just think about and then they say, okay, no, no, no. He starts to plunge the knife in and his hand is stopped by another Samurai. And they say, “Okay, you’ve proven your point. We’ll not do it.” But he meant to kill himself. And he stands up and he’s a bit drunk and they explain this happens. When this sort of thing happens, when you decide to let go of life and all of your burdens and commit to a release, an honest release, that you are essentially reborn.
And in his failure, his multiple failures to kill himself, what we see now with him in the dinner is he’s not eating tons of stuff. And he’s not stealing money anymore. He’s just honestly talking to her without wanting anything else other than another human to feel what he’s feeling.
Craig: He’s not yet at the point where he can empathize with the people around him. But he is at the point where he can be honest with her. And she picks up, out of all the things he knows about her — that she doesn’t like fudge, she likes dark chocolate but not white chocolate — that’s the thing that she picks up on immediately is that he’s being honest.
John: Yeah. She spends the day with him. We see them in bed. She’s not — nothing sexual — just lying on shoulder, trying to stay awake before this damn thing happens. They do a funny joke —
Craig: Cards in the hat.
John: The cards in the hat, but also midnight. Basically she’s convinced it has to happen at midnight. “It’s 12:01, we broke the curse.” It’s like, no, that’s not actually how it works. And we as the audience have never really been quite clear what it is that resets it, but he wakes up every morning at 6am.
Craig: At 6am. And they’re also playing around with our expectation that, oh, this is it, he’s really nice to her and she’s hanging out with him. The movie will end.
John: Yeah. Not even close.
The other sort of crucial thing here is that he finally — he’s being honest in general to her, but he actually confesses feelings, he’s sort of in monologue form while she’s fallen asleep next to him about what it actually feels like to be in his situation. And it’s one of the few sort of moments of introspection that he really gives us, or at least says aloud.
Craig: What he’s doing here in this moment is loving in an actual way. He has come to understand there is no prize. There’s no prize for this. He’s starting to love her with no expectation of anything in return, even if she were to love him back. In that moment she won’t at 6am.
And to let yourself love somebody that you know will not love you back the next day, well, that’s something. And we’re watching it happen with him. And as he starts to allow himself to love somebody unconditionally, he becomes emboldened to start loving everyone unconditionally. And now his life begins to actually change.
John: Yes. So, some of the visible changes we see, he brings coffee to Gobbler’s Knob to the crew who is waiting there. It’s actually weirdly the worst acting moment of the movie I feel like. There’s this awkward scene with Chris Elliott that doesn’t quite work, but works textually in the sense that he’s actually making a change.
He wants to be a better person. And so he goes, he gets piano lessons. Again, they find a funny way to get the piano lessons happening there. He basically says like, “I will pay you $1,000 for a piano lesson so the kid can go out.”
Craig: And by the way, did you notice who the piano teacher was?
John: Who was the piano teacher?
Craig: She’s the woman in the very beginning, well not the very beginning, but the first time he wakes up at 6am, I guess the second day, so it’s the first repeated day and he wanders out and he doesn’t know where all the snow is. And he sees some of these people moving and he says to a woman, “Where is everyone going?” And she goes, “Gobbler’s Knob. It’s Groundhog Day.” That’s the piano teacher.
John: Oh, great. Honestly if you can find a day player who is good, why not use them twice?
Craig: And set them up and show them — you know, all these people that you’re just ignoring are going to become an important part of your life.
John: I agree. He’s nice to the stairwell guy. We see him continue to practice the piano. Obviously piano practice is a great metaphor for by working hard and continually trying to do better you will actually get better at this thing. We see him learning how to make ice sculptures. He gives Phil Ryerson a long uncomfortable hug.
Craig: Ned. Ned Ryerson.
John: Ned Ryerson. It’s a really great choice.
Craig: “I’ve missed you so much.” [laughs] I mean, Stephen Tobolowsky, talk about a guy that came in and just had to nail it, had to nail it, and nailed it. I mean, forever. He has a Groundhog Day forever himself which is being Ned Ryerson. Just incredible.
John: But within this sort of like change for the good montage there’s actually a really sort of dark thing slipped through which is the old man who seemed begging from the very start, he sort of takes a shine to him and sees him later on in that night and sort of just takes him to the hospital and the old man dies. And there’s nothing he can do to keep the old man from dying.
Craig: That’s right.
John: And recognizing even as a good person the futility of life, that there is an end to everything.
Craig: That’s right. So, in this section we see Phil starting to live the right way. He is living unconditionally. There is no reason to learn the piano. If you’re not learning it to have sex with a woman, what are you learning it for? To play for whom? Why?
Because. Because there’s a joy in learning it. There’s no reason to help an old man that will die every single time. Just as there’s no reason to help anybody because we’re all going to die. But he does because it feels good to try. It feels good to try to be good to the people around you even if their flat tire will be flat again tomorrow. That living and loving other people is its own reward.
John: Yes. So, ultimately this is pushing us up to a sequence which has been suggested from the very start that there’s this big dance, this big ball that happens at night, but we’ve never seen it. And so we will finally see it.
We arrive — oh, actually this is the other time when we change perspective.
Craig: Yes! Yes!
John: Ah! Craig Mazin, you’re ahead of me.
John: We actually arrive at this big event with Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliott and with the piano playing. And we, of course, know that has to be Phil playing and of course it is Phil playing and he’s up on stage. And everyone there loves Phil because Phil is just an awesome guy who has done amazing things for everybody in this town today.
Craig: Right. So the moment, the second off POV moment is we’re in the bar and we’re with Chris Elliott and Nancy, the girl that Phil had seduced with his time traveling trick. And, you know, of course Chris Elliott is getting nowhere with her because he’s a goof. And then Andie MacDowell, Rita, shows up and says, “Hey, has anyone seen Phil?”
And Nancy says, “Oh, Phil Connors. I think he’s in there.” She’s apparently met him that day. And now what’s so great about the perspective shift is it allows us to see Phil through her eyes. We’ve been basically watching her through the male gaze the whole movie and now the movie flips around to an interesting female gaze, even the idea of the male charity auction.
John: Yeah. There’s a bachelor auction so that women get to bid on guys.
John: And she ends up bidding on him.
Craig: That’s right. So, that section is entirely — now for the first time in the movie we get to see Rita as a human being separate from Phil’s gaze looking at this man. And it’s so smart that they did this. Because what they’ve been holding back from us, what Danny and Harold held back from us, was her perspective of him. So, why would we ever believe she could love him if we’ve never seen him through her eyes? And now they give us that moment.
John: And he gets to say the lines, “I’m happy because I love you,” which is an important idea. So, basically this day is perfect not because he set it up as a perfect rouse for her. This wasn’t sort of done for her. It was done for himself and for everybody else. And that’s what sort of finally gets them connected.
Craig: Well, he’s living a day. So, his day, some of the things that happened on this day: he helps three old ladies whose car has a flat tire; he catches a boy that falls out of a tree; he saves the life of the town mayor, it seems, who is choking.
John: And lights the cigarette of the woman behind him.
Craig: I know! And lights the cigarette of the woman behind him! Exactly. And what’s wonderful is you start realize, oh my gosh, he does this every day. That now he lives every day, and he says to the kid — he catches this kid who falls out of the tree. He goes, “Thank me.” The kid doesn’t thank him. He runs up, “You never thank me. See you tomorrow.” And why is this a perfect day? Because it’s a day he’s okay living over and over. This is a day he’ll look forward to. If you live this way it’s all right that it happens again, and again, and again.
Just like marriage. If your marriage is good it’s okay that you wake up next to the same person day after day. It’s what you want. And we feel that now at last. And we also feel that he doesn’t care that it’s going to happen again. He’s not trying to get out of it anymore. He’s trying to stay in it, just as we should all.
John: Yeah. There’s a little bit of Candide to it all which is basically you can keep trying to do all these different things but ultimately you may want to just come back to tend your garden and live life delightfully in the smaller place rather than sort of keep trying to change everything around.
Craig: When you say Candide I immediately want to sing Glitter and by Gay.
John: Of course you do.
Craig: [sings] Glitter and Be Gay.
John: Because you’re a natural soprano, Craig Mazin.
It was also, of course because I’ve been mainstreaming True Detective this whole time, I kept coming back to the idea that True Detective is really a remake of Groundhog Day.
Craig: Time is a flat circle.
John: Time is a flat circle.
Craig: Right. Yeah.
John: And the POV shifts, honestly, because True Detective for this last episode has been lock step POV with our two guys. And some of the other women characters, especially the women, seem bizarre because of that, but it’s because of the locked perspective.
Craig: Yes. And this notion of your life repeating is ancient. I mean, in Nietzsche, I know you hate it when I talk about Nietzsche, but he wrote famously about the eternal occurrence, which I don’t think he meant in a cosmological fashion, but the idea that we just live over and over. Obviously this goes back to reincarnation and the idea of living over and over until you somehow find a spiritual — let’s not use the word perfection, because I think that that’s a trap — but a spiritual evolution.
And he experiences this with her and they make one last great, great choice that in this beautiful day where Rita watches as all these people come up to Phil and thank him honestly for saving their young marriage, and for saving their lives, and for helping them. At the end of this day they’re comfortably together in his room and he’s okay with the idea that if every day ends like this that he’s happy to live every day like that.
The morning comes and it’s a new morning. And they play a joke where they play the Sonny and Cher song and then they go, “Oh, god, we’re playing the same song.” And we go, oh my god, the spell is broken. And the last great choice is that Rita says, “You just fell asleep last night.” They didn’t have sex. He got nothing. He only gave. The whole day he just gave. And now he gets his reward to live. And where does he choose to live and with whom?
John: He says, “Let’s live here.” But before he says that he says, “Today is tomorrow.” Or, no, “Today is tomorrow” which is I think a great line.
Craig: Great line.
John: And then they ultimately decide, “Well let’s live here,” which I think is a reasonable — a really good choice for sort of the lesson that we’ve learned here. He now knows and loves all these people. And the movie decides to just — it cuts out. I mean, many movies would have gone a little bit longer and there’s arguments to be made for staying or not staying, but they don’t want you to sort of ask those next 15 questions. And so ending the movie is a really good way to sort of not ask those next 15 questions about, you know, well what does she want? Well, she wants to be a producer, she wants to do other things, she wants to do all this other stuff.
No. You can talk about that as you’re driving home.
Craig: Yeah. What are their jobs? Who knows?
The last image, I think, of the movie is clouds. But this time they are still. At peace. And from a structural point of view, let’s point out something. This is something we could talk about in another podcast, although I should bring it up now, I guess. And that’s this idea of predictability. We’re constantly, “Oh, it’s too predictable. Predictable.”
Hey, what’s more predictable than a movie where a guy lives every day over and over and then finally falls in love and gets a new day? So, predictable. We want that. This is good predictability. We’re desperate for it by the time it comes. We just want it to be earned. And we don’t mind the fact that it happens the way it’s supposed to happen because it’s structured so gorgeously.
John: The difference is execution. So, there’s expectation but there’s also execution. And it’s executed incredibly well. And it’s looking at exactly what are the moments that can happen and how to do the best possible versions of those moments. And everything was tuned and refined very carefully and very thoughtfully about how we’re going to get these moments to play just right.
You’re example of trashing the hotel room is a great example of that, because he’s going to do other destructive things later on. So, if you had done a giant destructive thing then it wouldn’t have really worked. It wouldn’t have had the same impact later on.
Craig: Right. Driving the car into the mailbox, which is his first act of destruction, wouldn’t have been so transgressive. I mean, it was more fun.
A lot of times, this is the basis of my talk at Austin that I did and I’m going to do it again at the Austin Film Festival. You could put this movie and Finding Nemo side by side. And notice some very clear thematic character structural similarities. A character has a philosophy. And they would prefer to remain precisely in the condition s they’re in, exercising that philosophy forever.
Something disrupts their ability to stay where they are. And all they’re trying to do is cling to that philosophy to get back. Where they end up is a place where they lose their faith in that philosophy. But they don’t yet have something new that they can properly believe in. And so they’re lost, and in this case throwing themselves off of buildings and in front of trucks.
And then they slowly begin to find this other way to live, but not until they act in a way that is selfless in accordance with that way to live. Same thing in Up by the way. Not until they act in a way that says I’m okay if I get nothing for living through this philosophy. In fact, I’m okay if I get hurt by living through this philosophy. It’s worth it.
Not until that point are they free to live happily ever after. Not until — Carl can say, “All right, you know what? I’m not going to. I’m here at the cliff and I can put this house down. But I’m not. Instead I’m going to go back and save the kid.” That’s not the end. The end is when he lets the house go. The end here isn’t when Bill Murray realizes, “Oh my gosh, I don’t have to be a jerk. I’m going to learn piano. I’m going to help people.”
The end is when he gets her in his bed and he’s okay to get nothing because he has no expectation that this has any purpose beyond just living well. So, it’s a great example of how to create structure around a character’s evolution from thinking one thing to the very polar opposite of that thing.
John: Agreed. It’s a terrific movie.
Craig, it’s been a pleasure talking it through with you.
John: And I should say this was always on our list of like when we do the next one of these movies we should do Groundhog Day because Groundhog Day is a classic. It was a great choice to do it this week and celebrate an amazing movie and an amazing filmmaker who gave us a tremendous number of fantastic movies.
Craig: And I should add that I know a number of people that worked with Harold. I got to talk on the phone with Harold Ramis once, many years ago. It’s funny to say that having a 20-minute conversation with a person is one of the highlights of your life. But it’s one of the highlights of my life. Because he is… — I think Harold is an example of the best version of what I wish I could be. [laughs] You know?
And from the funny, broad, insane movies to the more thought-provoking ones, just a brilliant man. And by all accounts — certainly my own brief encounter with him, but by everyone else’s accounts — one of the nicest men in the business. And I hope that that’s a lesson that other people can take into heart as well that the nice guys often finish first.
So, rest in peace Harold Ramis. We’ll miss you.
John: Indeed. Craig, thank you very much.
Craig: Thank you, John. Bye.