- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: British Film Institute; 2004 edition (May 1 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1844570320
- ISBN-13: 978-1844570324
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 0.9 x 18.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 159 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,984,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Groundhog Day Paperback – May 1 2005
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From the Back Cover
It is becoming clearer and clearer that Groundhog Day (1993), directed by Harold Ramis, is one of the masterpieces of 1990s Hollywood cinema. One of the first films to use a science-fiction premise as the basis for romantic comedy, it tells the story of a splenetic TV weatherman, Phil Connors (Bill Murray at his disreputable best), who finds himself repeating indefinitely one drab day in the milk-and-cookies town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. At first glance it seems like a feel-good parable in the tradition of Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1943). But on closer inspection it is a deeply ambivalent fable, with strong echoes of Samuel Beckett: before he finds redemption Phil must plumb the depths of suicidal despair - and even after he has survived this, the film offers no guarantees that he will live happily ever after. Ryan Gilbey begins his account of Groundhog Day with the long and unlucky gestation of the script by Danny Rubin (who was interviewed specially for this book) which formed the basis of the finished film. Gilbey celebrates the inspired casting of Murray, alongside Andie MacDowell and less well-known actors such as Stephen Tobolowsky (who plays the reptilian sa
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His analysis of the movie itself is serious but never pretentious, yet never betrays the humor of the film. (His comments on the "Ned Ryerson" character made me laugh.) His discussion of Bill Murray's performance is wonderful.
Finally, Gilbey briefly sketches the influence of "Groundhog Day" on subsequent movies. All in all, a thorough and most enjoyable and informative book, a fine addition to the BFI series.
The description of the book says: "Ryan Gilbey begins his account of Groundhog Day with the long and unlucky gestation of the script by Danny Rubin, who was interviewed for this book..." That's actually a very cleverly written sentence, it made me think this book was a detailed account of such things. But the author describes this very "long" gestation in less than eleven pages and that's pretty much the sum total of the behind the scenes content for this book. There are a few more anecdotes here and there, but the bulk of this booklet is essentially the author describing what happens on screen, "Cut to the radio alarm clock on the bedside table. It could be any radio alarm, any table. The time is 5:59. No - now it's 6:00..." Throw in some uninspired comments, some biographical info on Bill Murray, and a multitude of rather pointless film history references, and there are your 81 pages of the book.
If you're a fan of the movie Groundhog Day you may be tempted to buy this book to find out more about the film, but you would honestly be better served surfing the web for a few minutes. This "book" might have made an interesting magazine article but it has been pulled and stretched into 81 pages of uninspired and pseudo-academic reflection.
I am glad I saw the movie again. Funnier than I remember and rife with themes crying out for good discussion and good analysis, the movie does deserve the status it has achieved. Of course, being a good movie and being a good BFI book on the movie are two different things. Several excellent movies have been the subject of lackluster or even bad interpretations. See, for instance the BFI books on The Matrix (BFI Modern Classics),Eyes Wide Shut, and Se7en (BFI Modern Classics).
For GROUNDHOG DAY, however, the author Ryan Gilbey has avoided many of the pretensions of other mongraphs and has also filled the few pages available to him with substance. Of the numerous BFI publications I have read, this is only the second one, other than The Shawshank Redemption (BFI Film Classics), which I have rated five stars.
Gilbey first puts the movie into the context of other movies that have allowed their characters to unwind and re-edit aspects of their lives. But Groundhog Day is different. Unlike Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) does not have a guide explaining things to him. Unlike Lola in Run Lola Run, we do not see different versions of the same event. Oh no, Connors is stuck in Punxsutawney for a good long time and with no explanation given.
Gilbey takes us 'behind the scenes' with the screenwriter and director and shows how the lack of explanation for Phil Connors' predicament came to fruition (the filmmakers were thinking of showing some woman putting a hex on him) and why it was a good idea that any overt explanation was kept out. Not providing viewers with such a reason, and being very unspecific about just how long Phil Connors was stuck in the loop (anywhere from a few years to thousands of them) keeps the audience itself a bit disoriented and maintains the feeling of existential claustrophobia.
The author further develops the thesis of how Phil's life, day after day of the same old same old, is, depressingly, not all that different from the rest of ours. But a further look at the individual February 2s allows us to see how Phil Connors himself changes internally when he has no choice of changing his external environment. That is the key to the movie, and the key for Connors to get back into normal time.
I will refrain from the pun that the book is worthy of repeat readings (groan), but for a fan of the movie (or a non-fan, as I was before seeing it a second time), it certainly is worth one. You really will appreciate the movie more.