People tend to forget that life passes away fast and that every day is a unique opportunity to feel its taste and admire its wonders. It is the case with the main character of the film Groundhog Day who is presented as always grumbling, pessimistic and self-conceited at the beginning. As the film unfolds, a miraculous entrapment in Groundhog Day gives the protagonist a chance to change and learn how to take life as a miracle and how to take pleasure in making other people happy. The main character changes in several aspects: his inner world, personal relationship, and professional life. Spiritually, he becomes compassionate and selfless. Moreover, he comes to understanding what gratitude and happiness are. Professionally, he becomes more interested in simple details of life, establishes friendly relationships with colleagues, and covers events in a more spontaneous and original way. In terms of his personal relationships, he finds love, for which he is ready to sacrifice and to improve constantly and which is based on his genuine desire to share and make the partner happy.
The film begins when a group of TV people comes to a small town in Pennsylvania to cover a celebration of Groundhog Day, which is an annual event that takes place on February 2nd. The main character, Phil Connors, a weather forecast presenter on a TV channel, is quite an unpleasant and selfish man. He is not happy with being sent to the small town of Punxsutawney and looks down on its inhabitants. After shooting news about the event, he is eager to return home, but fate plays trick on him. From now on, he has to live the same day from the very beginning, with no opportunity to escape from this vicious circle. The further part of the movie depicts several stages that he has to go through as a spiritual transformation.
This transformation concerns several spheres of his life, including his inner world, his personal relationships and his professional activities. At the beginning he is happy with neither of these aspects. Speaking about his spiritual portrait, he is quite self-absorbed and pessimistic. He is never content with what he has today and hurries to escape hoping that tomorrow will be better. Yet, a better tomorrow never comes. Hence, the authors of the film use a metaphor for a common problem that an ordinary person has to face in their existence – inability to be grateful for what they have today and be happy here and now. They also discuss the reasons why this happens to people – according to the authors’ philosophy, the roots of unhappiness is selfishness. When one’s heart is closed, there is no chance to feel love that fills life with a higher sense and enables to feel the taste of living. This is the case with Phil, but it takes time for him to realize what he needs in order to change his life.
An interesting aspect that is transformed in the course of the film is how the protagonist sees freedom. At first, when he realizes that he can do whatever he wants with no consequences, he starts to burn his life out. He becomes destructive, eating a lot, drinking, having sex with women, manipulating other people using his knowledge about them. He even tries to kill himself many times, but he fails to do this. In fact, this episode may be understood in terms of Buddhist religion, when a person is reborn a number of times and is unable to escape from Samsara, a circle of births in a human body, until he or she achieves enlightenment. In the course of time the man realizes that absence of responsibility is not real freedom. He also comes to realize that conscious actions that change other people’s lives make him happier too, and that compassion is what transforms his inner world. He uses opportunities instead of grumbling about flaws, he prefers spontaneity to strict order that he used to choose in the past. The film demonstrates that people’s complaints about boredom and absence of meaning are not fair, that every day is not like another one, although it might seem so at first sight.
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The inner world of Phil changes when he sees the creative potential that a person has in relation to the world and to his own life. He starts learning new skills like playing the piano and carving ice sculptures. He becomes richer in his emotions and more flexible in his behavior, because it takes out-of-box thinking to react in a new way or think of a new idea. He discovers that there are a lot of objects to explore. He also finds out that people can be of interest to him. He shifts from manipulative behavior to sincere interest, which grows in deep compassion and desire to do his best to help others.
It is also worth discussing Phil’s relationship with Rita, which undergoes transformation as a result of Groundhog Day effect. The man’s attitude changes from desire to possess to desire to make another person happy, and this is the final point to break the circle. At first, when Phil discovers that it is easy to get women by finding out what they like and pleasing them, he tries to do the same to Rita. Yet, she discovers that his feelings are false, although she is fascinated at first. Thus, the film demonstrates that it is impossible to cheat God, and that every truthful motif is visible too. So, it is universal to many religions, as it highlights the principles of love and sacrifice. As a researcher points out, “One of the things that fascinates Olson about “Groundhog Day” is its resonance with people of widely differing religions – Christian, Jew, Zen Buddhist, humanist, existentialist, to name a few…It’s so beautifully portrayed in this movie. You identify with Phil Connors. You become Phil Connors” (Chojnacki 1).
This principle appeals to the relationship between Phil and Rita too, as he gradually gets absorbed by her world. This goes in alignment with his general compassion to people: he helps the homeless, gives presents to people, and so on. He transforms to being mean to being generous. His attitude to his professional activities changes likewise: he realizes that his job is not as boring as he used to think and that he can use it for the sake of making the world better. He understands that as a television person, he can affect other people’s lives and that he should have responsibility to do so. Phil starts loving the town that seemed hellish to him before, and it becomes his home.
It is very important to note that God or fate, whatever this power is named, allows him to move further only when he starts to sincerely believe that today is the best day of his life. Only when he says, “I don’t care what is going to happen tomorrow because I am happy right now”, he wakes up on February 3rd and with Rita by his side. Thus, the film suggests that the necessary requirement for spiritual growth is acceptance of life as it is. It allows moving to a new stage.
In conclusion, it is worth saying that the film Groundhog Day is an inspiring work that makes one think about the right attitude to life. It depicts a transformation that a character undergoes gradually, when through his own experience he realizes that only power of love can make one happy and only gratitude and generosity fill life with higher sense. The story demonstrates that one should not wait tomorrow to make life better. It shows that no better tomorrow comes since the expectation is illusionary, and each day is the same. When Phil realizes that today is the best day of his life, he transforms all aspects of his personality and relationships.