Sunday, September 15, 2013

this is wonderful

There are only a couple stray observations today. The first is about a background extra I’ve mentioned before, the girl with the upside-down Phil sign. The second is about Rita.

First, have a look at these clips. You’ll see the sign girl in a long grey coat You’ll see her best in the fourth one.

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

(First of all, a sidenote: I rather like that the position of people and cars is not exactly the same from day to day. Butterfly effect and all, people’s movements should be a little different each resumption, and the later in the day, the more they should differ.)

What’s extra interesting about the fourth clip is that sign girl used to have a friend. She’s walking with someone else on Days 1, 2, and 3. But, for some reason, on Day 4, she’s alone. Now, I’ve mentioned more than once how Phil doesn’t do anything truly evil like murder. But, might we assume he’s really taking advantage of the resumptions after spending the previous night out with Ralph and Gus, might he have randomly murdered a passerby on the 4th morning? And so, sign girl is walking to Gobbler’s Knob wondering where her friend is.

Or, not so dark—maybe Phil dropped some gum on the ground just down the street from the bed and breakfast (much like one of his good deeds in an earlier version of the script) and sign girl’s friend got delayed scraping gum off her shoe just long enough to not meet up with sign girl, and so sign girl is walking alone…

Except, whatever happened has to be something Phil is repeating, because on Day 29, sign girl is alone still/again:

You watch the movie once and you probably don’t even notice sign girl has lost her friend. If you do notice, you probably think little of it or just figure it’s a mistake. But, you watch the movie for the 45th day in a row and you forget about filmmaking and wonder about in-universe explanations, hence the two theories above. But, it’s more complicated than either of those two. By Day 29, even if Phil had killed someone the morning of Day 4, he would not be doing so anymore. And, the gum thing, while a shot of it and the resulting effect on sign girl and her friend would be an interesting nod to Phil saving an old woman from getting hit by a truck by leaving some gum on the sidewalk (apparently from Rubin’s first revision, according to Ryan Gilbey), it wouldn’t fit quite this early in the film. His good deeds are still to come; he’s only just spent “god” day with Rita. But, the thing these two days, 4 and 29, have in common is that Phil is in a good mood; he’s ready to figure out how to make things better. On Day 4, he’s ready to start working the curse for his own benefit. On Day 29, he’s ready to start working the curse for, well, the betterment of everyone, including himself. But, given that mood, maybe he’s been skipping down the street, or maybe dancing like Don Lockwood in the rain… but without the rain. Maybe he’s out there hamming it up, enjoying his morning, and maybe sign girl’s friend got delayed because she was watching Phil dance and sing, or a third party got held up watching Phil, and he, inspired by the awesome display, saw sign girl’s friend and had the nerve to ask her out, which he’d been dying to do for a long time, and so sign girl’s friend didn’t go spend the day with sign girl celebrating Groundhog Day, but rather hung out with her new beau. Phil Connors, incidental matchmaker.

Or maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe Phil just interrupted the butterfly that flapped its wings so sign girl’s friend’s frozen gate didn’t open quite as quickly that morning… except that might be a) overthinking it a little bit more and b) depending on butterflies that probably aren’t even in Punxsutawney on February 2nd—aren’t butterflies all still in the process of becoming in their cocoons at midwinter? I don’t know. I’m not a lepidopterist.

Anyway, there are things changing that we don’t see, even this early in Phil’s day, but let’s move on to something else that’s been bugging me recently. It’s very simple: Rita is a liar.

Now, I don’t mean she’s a horrible, dishonest person who should never be trusted. But, it’s easy to look down on Phil’s approach to dating her, wrapping every move in a lie to make himself more appealing. I’ve said before how this approach is weird anyway, because he’s just turning himself effectively into Rita, but Rita is not in love with Rita, so why would she want to spend the night with a male version? But, there’s something, I think, of how we approach dating in general that we can see in Phil’s approach, a truth behind the fiction; we all turn ourselves into some other, preferably “more appealing” version of ourselves for a date, don’t we? I mean, a few dates in, maybe not so much, but this is their “first” date.

(And, I put “first” in quotation marks because a) that’s what it literally is at first, b) that’s what it is every time for Rita and c) there really isn’t a good word for what it becomes as Phil tries again and again and again.)

So, you wonder, what did Rita lie about? Well, one thing for sure—when she eats what it’s safe to assume is fudge when she’s with Phil at the chocolate shop, she says, “mm, this is wonderful.” But, later she admits, “I hate fudge.” So, while she’s on the date, and her date buys her fudge, it’s “wonderful.” But, when the date turns out to be a manipulative bastard, the truth comes out. Arguably, Rita isn’t doing anything worse than Phil is—she just doesn’t have the resource he does in the repeated chances. Still, in that day, at that moment, she’s trying to Phil Connor him as much as he’s Phil Connoring her.

Imagine if you will, that Cupid is the god behind Phil’s curse. It isn’t about his ego, it’s about his ability to love. And, I’m talking Jeremy Piven Cupid, by the way, who often equated sex to love as far as scoring his quota for couples. What if the entire point of Phil’s curse is not “love” but to get Rita into bed…

Except, they still haven’t had sex by the time it flips over to February 3rd, have they? There goes that theory. Unless Rita’s wanting to go to bed with him was enough. I mean, when he gets affectionate on the morning of the 3rd, she does ask, “why weren't you like this last night?” Rita on all those date nights seemed like a girl who would never go to bed with a guy on the first date, but she sees a guy play some piano and sculpt her face out of some snow and she’s a whole different person.

Of course, it doesn’t take much to form an attraction, does it? You go out to a bar or check an online dating site and there are physically attractive people all over the place. For some peoples, that’s enough, and it’s just a matter of which one it will be tonight. But, if you want more, it doesn’t have to be deep, at least not at first. I mean, you want something deeper as it goes, you want romance and love and all that nice stuff. But, in the short term, sometimes all you need is a spare hello at just the right moment. Maybe you just wanted a drink, you had no plan to initiate conversation with anyone at the bar but then someone initiates conversation with you. That alone can be oh so endearing if the mood is right. There’s a thin line between a passing attraction and something you’d later call love. Hell, if it turns into something long term, you’d probably tell your kids and your grandkids about that passing attraction as the start of some great romance, when a slightly different circumstance might have meant it was nothing but another one that got away.

And, most of the time, I think I’m a romantic. Hard to believe.

You know what I wonder? I wonder how Phil’s date with Rita went that first night, when he ordered Jim Beam. Did they still get to the chocolate shop, or was it just a drink bought, maybe a conversation (in which she made that comment about the sunlight hitting the buildings in the afternoon in Rome), and then Phil went back to the bed and breakfast for a cold shower—

—and, that cold shower is not because he couldn’t get with Rita, mind you, but because every shower at the bed and breakfast was cold.

On the second try, is Rita really so hard up for a guy that she’s impressed that his favorite drink is the same as hers? Is Phil so hard up for Rita that he thinks she’s really be impressed by that? Can she really be put off by him toasting to the groundhog, considering that is far better than his attitude yesterday (Day 0) about being in Punxsutawney to cover Groundhog Day? Did they make it to the chocolate shop? Did they make it to the restaurant?

On the third try, you can see something going on for Rita when Phil not only toasts to world peace but says a prayer. This is not Phil Connors she’s seeing. This is someone worth her time. This is why they make it to chocolate shop. Now, despite my own day count (and the editing of the film), must we assume the restaurant was this same night? Or, did Phil do something wrong at the chocolate shop? He didn’t offer her white chocolate until the night we see, and I’m sure she’s lying about liking the fudge every night, but maybe he offered her Turkish Delight or peanut brittle. And, at the restaurant, was laughing at the French poetry his only mistake? Might not a genuine mistake—albeit not the insulting laugh—have been endearing and worth committing? Did they make it back out to Gobbler’s Knob for snowman building the night Phil laughed at her?

Really, did Phil just spend time with Rita until some little detail went wrong and then he’d mysteriously get up and leave, back for a cold shower and planning the next day? That seems like more effort than it’s worth. I’d like to think that the first date actually went nicely. Phil drank his Jim Beam and relaxed enough to have a nice conversation with Rita. Maybe they didn’t get to the chocolate shop or the restaurant. I assume they didn’t make it out to Gobbler’s Knob for snowman building—though, they had to do that at some point before we see it or he wouldn’t have the supplies from the “snowman shop”—and they certainly didn’t dance in the gazebo. But, maybe Phil did get to spend enough time with Rita to realize that his initial attraction to her was something more real, something worth pursuing. So, then, after his cold shower back at the bed and breakfast, he thought back on the night and wondered what he could change, what he could fix, and what he could steal from Rita. And, then it was an experiment, with test one being the sweet vermouth.

But, no, I don’t overthink any of this. In fact, I just mindlessly view the movie day after day, not a thought in my mind.

Anyway, today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to pay attention to all the players on my stage, even the extras like sign girl, to realize they’ve all got their own stuff going on and I’m just a bit player, and even sometimes only an extra on their stages. As Quote Investigator reminds us,

Most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles and we are preoccupied with our own problems. We sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties so clearly. But Ian MacLaren noted wisely, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”

Supposedly, this was MacLaren’s “Christmas message [in] an influential religious weekly in England” in 1897, but it’s a worthwhile message every day. Sign girl is probably missing her friend. We should feel for her. And, all the real-world people like her. That is, all the real-world people.

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