Phil: “Do you think I’m acting like this because I’m egocentric? ” Rita: “I know you’re egocentric. It’s your defining characteristic. ” This dialog, taken from a scene in the 1993 release of Groundhog Day, effectively shows the general sentiment that is shared by just about everyone who knows Phil. Bill Murray plays the not-so-lovable Phil Connors, a local weatherman for Pittsburgh’s channel 9 action news, in this film which was directed and co-written by Harold Ramis.
The weatherman seems nice enough in the beginning, but almost instantly transforms into an egomaniac who gives the sense that his job, his on-location assignment, and his coworkers are beneath him. Things get interesting once Phil and his news crew make their way to the quiet little town of Punxsutawney to report live from the Groundhog Day festivities. The already grumpy Phil is made even grumpier after realizing he will be stuck in the town for an extra night due to a blizzard. By some strange twist of fate, Phil wakes to find he is reliving Groundhog Day over again.Order now
This pattern repeats for what might actually be weeks, months, or maybe even years. Through his journey of reliving Groundhog Day repeatedly, Phil slowly and reluctantly transforms into a much more likable person. The arrogant, self-centered, unfriendly, rude, and sarcastic weatherman, who is introduced at the beginning of the film, discovers that he can become a better person, be a hero in other people’s lives, and still achieve his own happiness. In the opening scene, Phil seems to be a likable, funny, and entertaining guy as he goes through his daily weather report for viewers.
This impression quickly disappears when Phil’s true personality turns on after the news studio cameras turn off. It soon becomes apparent that Phil’s off-air personality makes him an unpleasant individual to deal with. He hands out his first insult to his co-anchor, Nan, when he says to her, “For your information ‘hairdo,’ there is a major network interested in me. ” This statement shows his attempt to insult and put her down by calling her a name while building himself up to look more important.
He is also trying to point out that he is somehow better than she is, because a big network supposedly wants to lure him away from his local news job. Phil’s arrogance and rudeness are then directed toward his assistant, Kenny, regarding the 10:00 newscast. He asks Kenny, “Look, can you handle the 10 or not? ” This gives the impression that Phil thinks the job will not be done correctly or as well as if he were there doing it himself. Phil’s ugly personality shows itself again when they arrive in Punxsutawney.
He flies into a rant about how he cannot stay at the same hotel where the rest of the crew will be staying: “Rita I can’t stay here. ” “I hate this place. ” “I stayed here two years ago. ” “I was miserable. ” “It’s a fleabag. ” “I’m not staying here. ” He is a little more satisfied when Rita informs him that she actually booked him at a bed-and-breakfast somewhere else in town. To this news, he responds by telling her that keeping “the talent” happy is a good trait in a producer. He, of course, is referring to himself as “the talent,” and once again shows the extent of his arrogance.
Phil does not limit his bad attitude to only the people he knows personally. He refers to the people in Punxsutawney as “hicks,” because they are enthusiastic about the festivities of Groundhog Day. He even calls Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, a rat. It seems that Phil’s overblown ego has no end, but fate has plans for him. His slow and sometimes painful journey to becoming a better person will soon begin. Phil’s selfish nature takes over after he comes to the realization that he is the only one who can affect change in the day, and there are never any long-term consequences for his actions.
Instead of using this knowledge to do some good or try to make positive change, he decides it would be fun to lead the cops on a wild car chase. Without regard for anyone’s safety or personal property, he goes on a reckless drive through town, leaving a path of destruction in his wake. He easily manipulates the day to achieve his own selfish desires by using the knowledge he gains of the people and events in the town. He is able to convince a young woman, Nancy, that they are long lost acquaintances from high school.
This allows him to manipulate and take advantage of her back in his room later that night. He decides he would like to have a nice, expensive night out on the town, so he uses his knowledge of the day’s events to rob an armored truck. After conquering so much, Phil then turns his attention to Rita and attempts to take advantage of her in the same way he had with Nancy earlier in the film. Being stuck in the same day, with no consequences for anything, anyone would likely take time out to have a little selfish fun.
Phil soon realizes that the ride is becoming monotonous and he wants to get off this merry-go-round. A major turning point in Phil’s journey comes only after becoming conscious of the fact that he is falling in love with Rita, and he wants to finally be able to move on from this day. After many days of repeating Groundhog Day, Phil hits a low point. He confesses to Rita what has been happening to him and is actually able to convince her that he is telling the truth. She feels badly for him and offers to spend the rest of the day with him “as an objective witness just to see what happens. He lets his defenses come down and wins her over through the course of the day. In a private moment with Rita, Phil completely breaks away from the superior, ill-mannered character he is at the beginning of the film. While she is drifting off to sleep, he admits to her, and himself, how he feels about her. He confesses all the things he has come to love about her and how he does not think he deserves someone like her. Another major selfless act comes when Phil decides to befriend the elderly homeless man on the street.
He makes it a personal mission to show kindness to the stranger and even tries to save the man’s life. No matter what he does though, the old man always ends up dying. The previously uncaring weatherman is so strongly affected by this event that it ultimately becomes the final turning point in bringing Phil to the end of his journey. By the end of the film, and the final Groundhog Day, Phil is friendly, kind, humble, unselfish, heroic, and polite. He uses the knowledge gathered from reliving the same day so many times to make a difference in others’ lives.
By showing up in the right places at the right times, he saves a boy from being injured when he falls from a tree, helps three elderly ladies with their flat tire, and saves the life of a man who is choking on a piece of steak. Instead of complaining, he makes the most of being stuck in Punxsutawney and even takes part in the festivities. At the party that night, he plays the piano while the crowd dances. Being the life of the party, and receiving so much attention from the townspeople he helped throughout the day, makes Rita take notice of him as well.
He has at last achieved his perfect self, a perfect day, and the rest of his life can finally begin. Phil is an excellent example of a character on a hero’s transformation. He is shown first as a horrible person who is only concerned for himself. Through the trials and tribulations of repeating the same day in a seemingly endless loop, he is forced to look within himself as the only person able to make any sort of change. He hits a few bumps along the way and goes through highs and lows, but eventually gets things right.
He finds there is more to living than just what is good for him. It becomes clear to him that maybe he is not such a great person and there is perhaps room to change and grow. He becomes increasingly aware that his actions can have a direct, significant, and positive impact on the lives of other people. While all this is going on, he manages to find the happiness he did not even know he was looking for. In the end, Phil is a better person who gets the girl and is well liked by everyone in town.
Groundhog Day. Dir. Harold Ramis. Perf. Bill Murray. Columbia Pictures. Columbia TriStar Home Video, 1993. DVD.