Thursday, July 2, 2020

chance of departure today

Phil is on his way to Punxsutawney again because it is the 2nd of the month. I am in a hotel room on a roadtrip. Unlike that fateful roadtrip made for this blog, June 2015, when I was covering Westerns for a month, this one... I was going to say that it didn't end with a broken down car, but we are not home yet. We did see some movie locations--notably Monument Valley--but nothing to do with the current run of movies from, now, 1988, in my childhood deconstruction. But, today is not even about that deconstruction, because it's Groundhog Day around here.


The goal with every re-screening of Groundhog Day now, of course, is to notice something new in the film that I've not seen in the 400+ prior screenings.

But, it doesn't matter if I notice something new--
(Though, as I typed that, I actually noticed a new small detail, because that's what my brain does. The old guy in the bright red hat--the one I often called the devil during the first year of this blog--is at Gobbler's Knob. That isn't the new part. He is also seen later at the diner (he's behind Phil during the "You like boats but not the ocean" bit. That is not the new thing either. What was new was that he was visible in the shot of the Gobbler's Knob crowd from behind, one arm raised and dancing. 
I imagine he is celebrating me noticing him anew. Which is putting the cart before the horse, or however that idiom works.)
--because noticing something new is not really the point. Also, there's always something new. An oft repeated theme of this blog is that any time you watch a film, you are a different person, it is a different film, and you will never have the same viewing experience twice. Two road trips since I last watched Groundhog Day a month ago. Finished the main production of a podcast--Two Minutes About Time, about About Time. And, most significantly, a reinvigoration of my relationship with my wife that means my life is very different than it was a month ago.
(And, I just noticed another new thing, because I guess I am awesome. When the neurologist played by director and co-writer Harold Ramis says to Phil, "You know what you might need, Mr. Connors?" and Phil replies, "A biopsy?" you can see Ramis mouth at least the last couple syllables of "biopsy".)
I was going to reiterate an old point from this blog today--that Phil does not deliberately become Rita's perfect guy. He does not take piano lessons because she says her perfect guy plays an instrument. (In fact, if Phil is in the time loop as long as so many people like to think he is, he likely wouldn't even remember the conversation with Rita about her perfect guy.) He doesn't become a better man because of Rita. But, in becoming a better man, he earns Rita's attention. However much her attention holds up is questionable, but we accept it because romantic comedy, reification of male/female roles in the final embrace, and a happy ending. But, what really matters for that ending is what comes after. Does Phil tell Rita what has happened in Punxsutawney? Does she believe him? Is there some sequel to the part of the story that I have always called "god day" in this blog?

I mean, if Phil doesn't tell Rita about his experience, then how is there any chance for their relationship? If she doesn't believe him, similarly, how is there any chance for their relationship?

I don't think that they will live in Punxsutawney (And this may tie into tomorrow's movie, back to 1988, Funny Farm) because they both need more than what they find in Punxsutawney. Not in some demeaning way. I mean, obviously, Phil has learned to appreciate the people of Punxsutawney. But, becoming a small town person after living in a larger city (or growing up in a larger city, really, as Phil grew up in Cleveland well before he lived and worked in Pittsburgh) is not easy. Nor is it necessarily something Phil would really want after his time there. There might be some attachment for a while, because living outside the time loop will be, probably, harder to adjust to than adjusting to the time loop was.

But, "Let's live here... We'll rent to start." is an on-the-nose Harold Ramis line that we understand as the bow that completes the wrapping on this wonderful little fable. Plus, there's a delicious, if silly, irony in Phil immediately backing away from his living suggestion with the rent line. Plus, rent is inherently foreign to everything that has happened in the film prior; in a time loop, money has no value.
(Another new thing, or a new way of noticing an old thing. One of the goofs on IMDb for this film was that a couple old people keep clapping after the applause ends as Phil leaves the stage. But, you can totally still hear their very soft clapping. So, I may have to go correct another goof.)
Phil trying to impress Rita or actively trying to get close to her--that doesn't work. But, when he finally is honest with her about what is happening, and proves it with what he knows, she believes him, and for that day at least, their relationship is more real than it is at any other point in the film.

Or Rita is in investigative mode just like she is on the last day of the loop. But, I am too happy today, this month, this life, right now, to be cynical enough to assume that.

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