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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, June 05, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 41

[41st of 100]. What could be a better film for these lockdown times? Here is a story of a man trapped within the confines of a specific place and time, waking up each day to find himself re-living the same 24 hours in the same small town, things changing only in small variations but ultimately following the same relentless blueprint. That it's a comedy only belies the deeper [and often darker] thematic levels this 1993 film dares to reach for: the possibility of redemption and reinvention, the existential claustrophobia of immortality, the power of love, the sweetness of death, the boredom of forever, the ultimacy of jazz. You don't expect to think of any of these when you first get to watch this movie. And perhaps for most people, maybe these things completely escaped them since the story itself is so hilarious, the direction [by Harold Ramis] and screenplay [by Ramis and Danny Rubin] so inventive, and the central performance [by Bill Murray] grounded so well in the star's public persona [which is that of wry, comic curmudgeon], with the added touch of exquisite, frayed humanity. [Murray would later perfect this persona ten years later in Lost in Translation.] We completely accept Phil as an asshole of a weatherman with a high degree of self-regard than he actually deserves. We laugh as he side-eyes the titular groundhog who shares his name and who's actually better at forecasting the weather. But we also completely accept his growing befuddlement with the time loop when it finally happens in full force, his initial prickishness at things [we will totally do that, too], his segue to a death wish that convinces him he's a "god" [completely understandable], and soon -- because what else is there to do? -- his dogged pursuit of reinvention in the name of love. The delight in this film is watching it chart out an interesting character's growth while traversing the same narrative set-up, again and again and again, always finding ways to discover interesting openings in the blueprint of a repeating day. I think we love it because the movie somehow promises us that we have the ability do better, and have x number of chances to do better even if we have royally fucked up. Of course that's mostly a fairy tale in an unforgiving world that constantly moves forward. The film, too, is really a fairy tale of second chances -- and it is a fantastic wish fulfilment of that. Nonetheless, life itself is difficult to bend to our heartfelt schemes. But what if the world has paused, like now? In the quarantine, did you ever find the time o learn to play the piano like Phil did in his own existential lockdown? Did you learn ice sculpture? Did you recite French poetry? I doubt most of us did. So, good for Phil; he remains the embodiment of all our good intentions. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich