Sunday, September 8, 2013

sounds like a lot of fun

Subtitle: Notes on a script revision while sitting in the backseat of a car (but typed after a long day getting back from the conference, doing laundry, and taking kids out to dinner... that's a longer subtitle than yesterday) - part three.

(Honestly, I should have been able to deal with the notes I scribbled on the printout of the second revision by Harold Ramis in one blog entry—and possibly not so much just listing things—but as much as life arguably is just like Groundhog Day, my life can’t be all about the film, even if it is in my head a hell of a lot of the time, even if more than once while at the conference this weekend I had conversations about this blog and about the movie. But, I still managed to do entries and watch the film while away, again.)

Anyway, let’s get through the rest of this script already (and it’ll still be list-like, sorry).

The unnamed waiter still denies being gay. Debbie is still called Doris. The grease fire now happens at the “Diner”—probably replaced with the tray of dishes falling because, well, that’s both cheaper to film and funnier.

Phil tells Rita, “it was kind of fun for the first year or two.” While I liked the book calendar as a concept in the original, I rather like the film version, that there is no accounting for the days. It could have been any number.

Another note on profanity: Phil introduces Ned to Rita—“Rita, this is Ned Ryerson. He’s an asshole.” The film leaves aside profanity, of course. But, Ned’s response here is amusing. He’s just been called an asshole, and he responds with, “He remembers me!”

There is a little bit more content to “god” day. That’s when the introduction of Ned to Rita happens. Also, there’s an interesting bit where Rita coyly asks, “Just how well do we know each other?” Phil doesn’t get it at first, but she’s trying to find out if they’ve had sex so she knows “whether to smack you or not.”

There’s also a bit more to their conversation in his room that night. Phil has an interesting addition to his contention that he’s killed himself so many times he doesn’t exist anymore. “I’m just completely empty,” he says. Rita responds, “Or completely clean.” The line is maybe another thing that’s a bit too on the nose, a bit too explicitly philosophical. But, the exchange just after is nice:

Phil: If you’re going to be this positive all the time I may have to rough you up a little.

Rita: Wait! Have we done this before?

Phil: Which part?

Rita: You getting me up here, the card game, the pizza—

Phil: No, this is the first time.

Rita (excited): Well?

Phil: Well, what?

Rita: Well how does it feel to be doing something completely new?

It’s a nice idea, but, again, maybe a bit too much telling and not enough showing. We know this hasn’t happened before. That’s why we trust Phil is being genuine while Rita is dozing.

Phil gives a sciency explanation for the whole groundhog shadow phenomena in one of his reports that is intriguing enough that I don’t think I want to actually check on how accurate it may or may not be [yet]. He explains:

In fact, the groundhog’s legendary ability to predict the weather may be more than just the German folklore of the region. Higher temperatures trigger hormonal changes in the testosterone levels of male groundhogs, which may in fact wake them from hibernation and send them out to battle with other males for mating rights. So, the truth is they’re not looking for their shadows, they’re looking for groundhog chicks.

He also explains a bit of the Candlemas, Feast of the Purification stuff in another report.

The Phil Ned hug is possibly even more of a homophobic thing (explicitly so, in fact) in this version than it is in the movie. The direction says, “Phil gives Ned a big hug and keeps holding on for an uncomfortably long time, actually giving Ned a hickey on the neck. Ned goes into homophobic shock.” Phil’s line in the film—“I don't know where you're headed, but can you call in sick?”—was supposedly one of Murray’s ad libs.

I’ve seen a couple people claim Phil learned medicine as well—the combination of him wanting to see the Old Man’s chart and him fixing Felix’s back, I supposed, drives them to this thought. I don’t buy it. Fixing Felix’s back is a single act that Phil could have figured out on its own, and I think he just wanted to see the chart because the nurse wouldn’t tell him what killed the Old Man; I think he was hoping for something specific that he could solve. But, in this draft, there’s an extra (short) scene that has Phil actually studying some medical stuff. The direction: “Phil is furiously looking over X-rays, flipping through medical journals and making notes.” [It's a deleted scene] Problem is, the Old Man does apparently die from being old and being out in the elements, so I’m not entirely sure what these X-rays are or what Phil is noting out of the journals. This direction seems like it’s written by someone who knows nothing about medicine but wants a shot that shows Phil is learning stuff. I don’t think this would work, and it adds an unnecessary step to his sequence with the Old Man.

Though I obviously like to argue that Phil is not driven strictly by his love for Rita to improve himself, this version of the script has the Chekhov bit and right where the film gets some eye contact between Phil and Rita, sure enough, there’s a parenthetical direction: “Phil looks directly at Rita.”

Phil’s good deeds are more numerous in this draft. He saves Marie, “a little nine-year-old girl” from being hit by a truck [another deleted scene]—probably taken out for two reasons: a) a little girl getting hit by a truck is one of those things that might scare a kid watching the film and b) it would be an echo (not that there aren’t echoes in the film) of Phil stepping in front of the truck in the suicide sequence. The guy choking is a random businessman, not Buster. But, like switching out Tess for Rita, the change here probably came when Ramis told Rubin, “it’s better to give the best lines and scenes to the main characters.” By making this Buster, it makes Buster more of an actual character. However, in the film, Buster’s line (which I believe I’ve mentioned before) after Phil saves him—“Who was that?”—doesn’t make sense. Here, with it being some random businessman, the line makes sense.

Phil also saves a teenage girl, Janey, with another bit that would make people think Phil trained in medicine: “She’s not diabetic. It’s an overdose. Let’s get her up here and pump her stomach, then I want a complete blood work-up. STAT.” And, right after this, still at the hospital, Phil makes balloon animals for kids. But, there’s no evidence in the film that Phil ever studies medicine. Rubin says that because of the “long time frame” in his first draft, it made “perfect sense” that Phil could be a trained anesthesiologist, and it would be funny to discover him in that role.” He explains: “I do remember having a spirited discussion with Harold [Ramis] over whether could actually practice medicine. He didn’t think so.”

The biggest difference with the good deeds in this draft is that Rita is following Phil around. She sees all the good deeds.

A couple notes on the Old Man: He has a name, but I’m not sure what it is. It seems like a typo in the file. Bud, one of the paramedics—and is it wrong that the paramedics get names but the gay waiter doesn’t?—who finds the Old Man dead says, “It’s ol1 Really.” Maybe it’s supposed to be O’Reilly, and whatever program someone used to scan the script and turn it into a pdf didn’t understand. I think I might start calling him O’Reilly. And, a note for the timeline on February 2nd itself, the Old Man… O’Reilly dies at 8:02 P.M. Phil pins a poem to his coat [in another deleted scene]:

Every night, by cold bricks glow
I watch the shadow rising from this old man in the snow
At 8:02 we let it go

More of Phil telling people what’s going on, and a little too much telling and not enough showing: When Rita asks him at the dance what’s going on with him, he replies:

Okay. I wake up in Punxsutawney on February second—every day. It’s supernatural. I don’t even try to explain it anymore. So, I live each day as if it’s the only day I’ve got.

The only real value to that line is Phil saying he doesn’t explain something in the middle of explaining something.

And, another note on accounting for days: Phil tells Rita, “I’ve been waiting for you every day for ten thousand years.”

And, I will end this three-part exploration of Ramis’ second revision with this bit of Phil’s voiceover that remains, which on its own is just more telling over showing… or really, more telling what’s already been showing:

And so began my final lifetime, and ended the longest winter on record. I would find myself no longer able to affect the chain of events in this town, but I did learn something about time. You can waste time, you can kill time, you can do time, but if you use it wisely, there's never enough of it. So you'd better make the most of the time you've got.

I don’t think that these lines work in the film, even though I like what Phil learned about time.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to waste time, to kill time and to spend it wisely.

Oh, and Larry slugs Ned.

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