- D.A. Carson
Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today!
(I'm reposting this, verbatim, just because)
In a recurring Groundhog Day tribute of their own, the editors of National Review annually post Jonah Goldberg's excellent 2005 paean to the classic Harold Ramis movie, Groundhog Day. Here are the closing paragraphs of Goldberg's article, A Movie for All Time.
Ultimately, the story is one of redemption, so it should surprise no one that it speaks to those in search of the same. But there is also a secular, even conservative, point to be made here. Connors’s metamorphosis contradicts almost everything postmodernity teaches. He doesn’t find paradise or liberation by becoming more “authentic,” by acting on his whims and urges and listening to his inner voices. That behavior is soul-killing. He does exactly the opposite: He learns to appreciate the crowd, the community, even the bourgeois hicks and their values. He determines to make himself better by reading poetry and the classics and by learning to sculpt ice and make music, and most of all by shedding his ironic detachment from the world.Read the whole thing.
Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, the writers of the original story, are not philosophers. Ramis was born Jewish and is now a lackadaisical Buddhist. He wears meditation beads on his wrist, he told the New York Times, “because I’m on a Buddhist diet. They’re supposed to remind me not to eat, but actually just get in the way when I’m cutting my steak.” Rubin’s original script was apparently much more complex and philosophical — it opened in the middle of Connors’s sentence to purgatory and ended with the revelation that Rita was caught in a cycle of her own. Murray wanted the film to be more philosophical (indeed, the film is surely the best sign of his reincarnation as a great actor), but Ramis constantly insisted that the film be funny first and philosophical second.
And this is the film’s true triumph. It is a very, very funny movie, in which all of the themes are invisible to people who just want to have a good time. There’s no violence, no strong language, and the sexual content is about as tame as it gets. (Some e-mailers complained that Connors is only liberated when he has sex with Rita. Not true: They merely fall asleep together.) If this were a French film dealing with the same themes, it would be in black and white, the sex would be constant and depraved, and it would end in cold death. My only criticism is that Andie MacDowell isn’t nearly charming enough to warrant all the fuss (she says a prayer for world peace every time she orders a drink!). And yet for all the opportunities the film presents for self-importance and sentimentality, it almost never falls for either. The best example: When the two lovebirds emerge from the B&B to embrace a happy new life together in what Connors considers a paradisiacal Punxsutawney, Connors declares, “Let’s live here!” They kiss, the music builds, and then in the film’s last line he adds: “We’ll rent to start.”
I think Groundhog Day is one of the best movies ever made. I remember watching it on VHS with my wife, years ago; though it does not have an explicitly Christian message, the movie is brimming with redemption. Watching it for the first time surfaced in me an exquisite sense of joy. (And, in my one beef with Goldberg over this article, I thought Andie MacDowell was plenty charming).
If you haven't already watched Groundhog Day, I highly recommend it. If you have, get with the spirit of things and watch it again (and again, and again, and . . .)