For many people around the globe, February 2nd is when they celebrate an important ritual – watching Bill Murray berate poor Chris Elliot in Groundhog Day. Recently during one of my many viewings, I hit upon a sudden realization– Groundhog Day just might be the greatest romantic comedy of all time.
Sure, I love Annie Hall, Say Anything… and (500) Days of Summer as much as the next sensitive hipster type. But while those movies are great, they can also be a bit of a bummer on date night. Groundhog Day is hilarious (it might be Murray’s best movie, which is saying a lot), sweet without being sappy, and features a clever script (cowritten by director Harold Ramis) that never fails to amaze me with its airtight comic logic. Let’s take a look at why Groundhog Day just might be the greatest romantic comedy of all time.
It’s the perfect date movie
While your guy probably isn’t rushing to see Bride Wars, there isn’t a man alive who doesn’t love Bill Murray. (If there is, I don’t want to know him.) Groundhog Day has something for everyone– laughs, heart, and a brisk pace that will maximize your post-movie make out time. (Why are romantic comedies so long these days? He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day both clock in at over two hours. The Sex and the City movies ran 145 excruciating minutes each. Taken together, that’s nearly as long as the running time for the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. How many romantic misunderstandings and terrible puns must we endure??)
Andie MacDowell’s character is a realistic female lead
Rita, Phil’s producer and budding love interest, isn’t looking for a wedding ring or the perfect pair of Manolos. She’s a sincere, quick-witted woman with a love for French poetry and sweet Vermouth on the rocks with a twist.
Okay, maybe Rita’s a little cheesy. But she’s also far more likeable than the pencil-thin Carrie Bradshaw clones currently tripping over their four-inch heels on the big screen. (Why are so many female leads klutzy? Time to retire that particular character trope, Hollywood.) Though I’ll grant you it’s a bit of a stretch that her hair would stay that impossibly perfect during a blizzard.
It reminds us that winter can be romantic
While it’s hard to get all goop-y about winter while we’re still knee-deep in Snowmageddon ’11, there’s no denying that in the right context, snow can be pretty darn romantic. (As long as your car isn’t buried under several feet of the stuff.) Groundhog Day makes good use of its wintry setting, from Phil using the time loop to perfect his Rita ice sculpture to their sweet dance during a snow flurry. In the pantheon of “movies with snow dancing scenes that melt my goblin heart,” Groundhog Day is second only to Edward Scissorhands.
Does insurance salesman Ned Ryerson perfectly encapsulate the annoying former classmate we wish would leave us alone when we bump into them on the street and/or get a FarmVille request from them on Facebook? Bing! And does the great character actor Stephen Tobolowsky nearly walk away with the movie? Bing!
It shows us that love takes work
As Phil Connors discovers over the course of his really long day, you can’t weasel your way into someone’s heart just by pretending to be into the same things that they are. In order to move forward, Phil has to put in the time to really get to know Rita while also transforming himself from a complete jerk into a genuinely good person. (Just how long do you think Phil was stuck in Punxsutawney, anyway? I’d say at least a decade.) Sure, it takes getting trapped in a seemingly endless time loop for Phil to learn how to genuinely love someone. But, hey, he’s played by Bill Murray, not Tom Hanks. His last line to Rita is, “Let’s live here. We’ll rent to start.” Murrary’s characters are all about baby steps, folks.