Saturday, June 21, 2014

five, four, three...

Subtitle: notes on a draft, because these things don’t write themselves, part three.

Scene 100, Page 75 - this deleted scene (which has very little content; I would rather see something like the room-destruction scene really, since it was apparently actually filmed):

Kind of makes Phil seem like a stalker.

I like the idea of Scene 102, in which Phil sees Nancy again and speaks to her. It’s like the brief bit in the costumed scene outside the movie theater in which he acknowledges her in the movie, but with a little more dialogue to it. “Hi,” Nancy,” Phil says. “Hi,” Nancy replies. “Do I know you?” The description here is interesting: “Phil can’t manage enough enthusiasm to pursue her yet again.” “No,” Phil says then, “I guess not. I thought you were someone else.” And, he keeps on moving to where Rita and Larry are waiting. In the banquet sequence at the end of the movie, we get to see Nancy again, and she even bids on Phil, but there’s no acknowledgement by Phil of there having been anything there...

To be fair, it may have been 10,000 years or so since Phil pursued Nancy at all, but he’s probably seen her most of those 3.65 million days, at least in passing.

Scene 103, Pages 76 to 78 - this deleted scene:

It’s a nice idea but anything it can tell us is covered in a much simpler fashion by other scenes.

Scene 104, another report from Gobbler’s Knob:

This is one of the most pitiful spectacles known to civilization. With one nod from a filthy rodent best known to pest control agencies, a moribund old coal mining hamlet turns magically into the Lourdes of Pennsylvania, Mecca to thousands of people who, if they hate winter so damned much, why don’t they move to Florida, anyway? (Ramis, 1992, January 30, p. 78)

Another time when the (slightly) simpler version we get in the film works better:

This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out and they used to eat it! You’re hypocrites, all of ya!

The sidewalk cracks counting bit is still (?) around. There’s a parenthetical question mark because I thought that was only in Rubin’s original... and I just got out my copy of the second revision and it turns out I remembered incorrectly; the sidewalk crack counting scene is in the second revision. Page 75 in Ramis’ second revision, page 80 in Ramis’ third. Basically, Phil is counting the cracks in the sidewalks in town. He’s at nearly 2700 and some kids start yelling random numbers to mess him up.

This scene leads into Phil’s interaction with a cop that ends with the oft-used “like the groundhog” line regarding his name. (Oft used in the screenplay but only once in the movie.) And, this gets to Phil’s realization (correct or not) that he shares a connection with the groundhog. And, so Phil gives his report about how he has to stop the groundhog and he proceeds not just to steal the groundhog and drive off with him but rather he heads for Punxsutawney Phil’s habitat in the public library, shotgun in hand. Rubin (2012) explains regarding this scene:

Some version of this sequence stayed in the script until they cast Bill Murray. Bill had famously appeared in the film Caddyshack as a golf course groundsman, obsessed with killing a gopher. Even though Bill’s character would be different this time around and, of course, a gopher is not a groundhog, the similarities were too great. Even good casting can create casualties in the screenplay. I was more than happy to make the necessary adjustments. (pp. 95-96)

Which is a little weird, considering this is, by Rubin’s own accounting within the same book, the second draft completed after Murray was cast. Maybe there was some disputing it. Murray against it, Ramis for it... maybe. Maybe this was one of the things they fought about regarding Groundhog Day, another piece of the construction of their more than 20-year feud.

In the film version of the chase sequence, you don’t know that Phil and Phil are going to be dead by the end of the ride. Even when Phil says it’s “showtime” there’s still a chance he will just smash into the police car or something; we haven’t actually been shown the cliff, though we might realize what a quarry entails. But, in this draft, (and, in the second revision, apparently), Phil actually says: “Coming to the end of the trail, Phil. Then we’re going out in a blaze of glory.” Makes the coming suicide more obvious.

Interesting sidenote, because I don’t think I noticed this detail in the second revision either. Rita is driving the van during the chase. Larry actually readies his camera as they go.

When Phil jumps off a building to his death, he still falls past Ned Ryerson’s office window in this draft. It actually hadn’t occurred to me until now that Ned is working on Groundhog Day. I know the people working at the restaurants in town would go to work, but you’d think a local holiday like this might allow everyone else a day off.

One of Phil’s suicides is by (presumably) robbing the bank again. He runs out, “screaming, dressed in camouflage fatigues and armed to the teeth with an assault rifle in one hand, an Uzi in the other and a couple of handguns stuck in his belt.” Of course, the cops gun him down. We get a bit here that wouldn’t have done well in a family film... even coming out of the 80s.

He doesn’t get three feet before he is shot down in an incredible hail of gunfire.

Rita stands beside the camera gaping in horror while Larry records the grisly massacre. (p. 89)

My favorite line that is not in the movie is still here in this draft. Like so:

PHIL
—but I always wake up the next day without a scratch, without even a headache. I’m telling you, I’m immortal.

(Personally, I prefer the movie phrasing: I am an immortal.)

WAITER
The special today is blueberry waffles.

RITA
Why are you telling me this?

WAITER
Because some people like blueberry waffles. (pp. 90-91)

Love that one. Wish it made it into the movie. That waiter, by the way, is not Doris (because Doris is still the name of the young bride) but Bill/Billy—who in this draft still denies that he is gay. Rubin explains:

Harold changed this from “I am not!” to “I am.” I thought the denial was funnier, but in this scene Phil is trying to prove to Rita that he knows everything and everyone, and having the waiter deny the assertion could have been confusing. But I think the real reason the line changed was for political correctness. A gay man being outed against his will might be funny or it might be considered cruel. A gay man casually and proudly attesting to his gayness is perhaps modeling a healthy kind of reaction for the audience.

Whatever. I just find it interesting how every little detail in a screenplay could become a big test of values and taste. (p. 99)

Note, though, this is the second draft done by Ramis, so he let the “I am not” stick around for a while.

The grease fire from Toni’s in Rubin’s original, happens at the Diner just like it did in the second revision. There’s no waiter dropping a tray. I would bet the tray ended up just being easier to do, simpler, cheaper.

Scene 135, Page 95, Phil tells Rita about his day in the Virgin Islands. And, he doesn’t say he and the girl made love like sea otters. They just “made love on the beach.” I think this story works far better earlier with Ralph and Gus, because a) it’s more appropriate to share this kind of story with the guys than with a girl Phil was romantically pursuing not that long (from our perspective) ago, and b) this is “god day” and Phil should not be telling a story that puts distance between him and Rita; this is the day they finally, genuinely connect.

Phil calls Ned “an asshole.” And immediately thereafter, Ned is excited because “He remembers me!” There are several things wrong with this, not the least of which being that Ned either a) simply doesn’t notice when he’s called an asshole or b) doesn’t care because Phil knew his name, which makes Ned just pathetic. And, pathetic, for me at least, means we should not be cheering when he gets punched, earlier by Phil and later by Larry.

Also—and this is still this draft’s version of “god day”—Rita and Phil go to the Fudge Shop. “This is great,” Rita says, eating a piece of fudge. “No, it isn’t,” Phil replies. “You hate fudge.” He doesn’t—unfortunately—point out that Rita is a liar.

And, that is as good a note to end on today as any. Maybe I will finish these notes tomorrow. Maybe they will go on forever.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: just for fun, to try that standing outside the window thing. A different window every day. See how that goes.

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