“Groundhog Day” is, probably, one of the most interesting and memorable movies, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It is a comedy directed by Harold Ramis in 1993. The point is that the plot of the film gets better and better each time the viewer watches it. This is a story about a weatherman, Phil Connors, who is sent to enlighten the events of Groundhog Day each year at the same place and at the same time and gets into a kind of timing loop, where he has to go through the same terrible for him day for many times.
The ideas, introduced in the film, deserve much attention; the story of self-improvement may help lots of people improve their own lives and the lives of the people around; the ethical aspects of “Groundhog Day” have something in common with the ideas developed by John Mill, Onora O’Neil, Rosalind Hursthouse, and even some Hindu philosophers.
“Groundhog Day” is a moral fiction that describes the story of one arrogant character, Phil, his style of life, and his attitude to everybody and everything around. He is sure that he lives a normal life and behaves just perfectly, taking into consideration current situations and moral principles.
He does not care that his work may hurt someone; the only thing he has to do is his job. February 2 comes, and Phil has to go to Pennsylvania in order to cover one of the most famous festivals, Groundhog Day. According to the behavior of a groundhog, people may get to know when spring will come and what weather will be during the following days.
In fact, Phil is sick and tired of his annual routine and demonstrates his indifference to people’s behavior and their reactions. The only thought, he has in mind, is to do his job, get back to the city, and continue his happy life. He cannot even suggest that he has to live the same, Groundhog Day during the following “several” days.
Phil gets an opportunity to do everything he wants and not to think about the consequences. He does not think to do something good and necessary for the society, he achieves the only goal – to get a clear understanding of what is happening, entertain, and take everything possible from this life in one day. However, such repetition of the events pesters him with time, and Phil decides to make something good and do everything possible in order to help other people, and make everyone’s life better than it is.
The variety of moral issues, described in the movie, is really impressive. People may spend their whole lives finding the way in order to make this world better. The idea of utilitarianism is one of the leading ones in the film.
Utilitarianism is based on the idea of happiness and pleasure; pain and numerous sufferings, which are so inherent to this world, may be considered as invaluable, because a true value and essence of life is to prevent suffering and cause happiness. John Stuart Mill (2004) underlines that some people may disagree to the fact that happiness should be considered as the end of life and can be completely dissatisfied with “such a moderate share of it.” (11)
However, in “Groundhog Day”, the main character is able to escape from a timing loop because he can and do help the others to become happier. It does not symbolize the end of life or something. Helping other people is another way to make your own life complete and satisfied. Phil does not comprehend such a simple truth at the beginning; but, with time, he sees that his abilities to help people, who really need this, may be much more pleasant for him.
O’Neil (2005) reflects that Kantians believe that all people’s actions cannot be wrong if they are justified (46). This ethical aspect may be also considered in the actions of Phil Connors. He can always find a good excuse to all his actions and prove his correctness. He does not sped much time with one and the same person in order to analyze what may hurt him/her, he does all his job quickly without taking into account the consequences, which do not disturb him, and he never allows some emotions distract him.
Such style of life may certainly be justified, however, it is possible from only one perspective, the person, who does all this. Unfortunately, lots of people prefer to think about personal profits only. We do not care about the actions, which, on the one hand, are beneficial for us, and, on the other hand, are hurtful for the others. This character proves that any action has its consequences. For example, Phil ignores one old poor man at first.
However, when this day repeats for the third time, he presents some money for that poor guy, and, with time, he gets to know about his death. We cannot fight against death or illness; however, we can easily help to alleviate sufferings. It is another significant point of the story.
The accuracy of human actions is one of the problems, which may also trouble people. Is it possible to know for sure whether our actions are right or not? Hardly! The point is that we may do certain things and hope that they are right; however, time is the only thing that may prove or disprove something.
Rosalind Hursthouse (1999) makes a wonderful attempt to explain what a right action is. She underlines that any action may be called correct if it leads to the best consequences (26). One of the most powerful things about “Groundhog Day” is the way it tells about the experience and its consequences to the life of a doer and the people around.
Phil Connors is a symbol of the worst things in people. We do not pay too much attention to our own drawbacks, and truly believe that our life is adequate and worth. Without any doubts, it is quite possible to learn on own mistakes; however, if this live provide anyone with an opportunity to analyze the mistakes of other people, we should take this chance and improve this life without considerable losses. Do people have such a possibility?
Of course, they do, and the movies like “Groundhog Day” are the best helper in this case. We may laugh at Phil’s situation and think that the same will never happen to us. However, laughing is not the only thing we should take from this movie. Its creator, Harold Ramis, and a wonderful play of actors provide people with a fabulous chance to learn, and we cannot but use it.
In the movie, Phil says once: “Well maybe the ‘real’ God uses tricks, you know? Maybe he’s not omnipotent. He’s just been around so long he knows everything.” (Ramis & Albert, 1993)
Does he want to compare himself to God or just want to be another modern philosopher? Or, maybe, he has nothing to do but start thinking about some universal problems in order to “kill the time”. There are lots of possible ideas to answer why Phil says these words. The important point about all this situation is that he finds enough time to save several people, animals, and predict some accidents.
He becomes a “town hero” in one day. Lots of people just disrespect him because of his lies and attitude, and in one day, he demonstrates that everything is possible to change. Of course, he needs much more time to comprehend this, but people see the consequences in one day and forgive all Phil’s past mistakes. According to Indian ethical aspects, the life of every person has to be ruled by a kind of discharge of duties and debts to God, relatives, society, and humanity in general.
A personality is born in a certain caste and has to complete his/her own duties in order to prove that he/she is worth of being a part of this world, a essential part of this world. Andie MacDowell who plays Rita in “Groundhog Day” tells that it is better to “go with the flow” and see where it can lead. (Ramis & Albert, 1993)
To my mind, such an idea is not really correct. Is it obligatory to be dependent on the circumstances? Maybe, it is time to decide and make certain changes in our lives. Maybe, this life is too short to live it according to the words and actions of other people.
Such thoughts cannot but disturb my mind, and I start thinking again what the sense of this life – to live and think about personal desires and forget about other standpoints and preferences, or to live and help society, or to combine personal interests and be just not harmful to the society you live in. What is more possible to this world? Is it possible to live, enjoy, and help people simultaneously.
Bill Murray is a wonderful actor, who can easily present any character. In 101 minutes, he turns from an arrogant and selfish weather forecaster in a kind and attentive personality, respected by the inhabitants of Punxsutawney. Ramis’ direction is usually restrained and confident. He does not want to present a simple tale and underline the major issues of everyday life.
With the help of daily routine actions, Ramis introduce how the worlds of many people may be changed within one day and with the help of one man only. People cannot avoid making mistakes and egoistic actions. The problem is that we do not have much time to analyze them and try to correct. On the one hand, people are powerful beings, who may create, destroy, develop, and improve. On the other hand, these people are so dependable on certain things and are feeble before time.
With the help of “Groundhog Day”, lots of viewers may reconsider their own lives and improve them. It is not that difficult to watch the movie, learn something from it, analyze the behavior of main “Groundhog Day” characters, and comprehend the essence of ethical aspects such as human duties, self-esteem, and respect to the others.
Hursthouse, R. (1999). On Virtue Ethics. Oxford University Press.
Mill, J. S. (2004). Utilitarianism. Kessinger Publishing.
O’Neil, O. (2005). A Simplified Account of Kant’s Ethics. Applied Ethics: A Multicultural Approach by May, L. Prentice Hall.
Ramis, H. & Albert, T. (1993). Groundhog Day. United States: Columbia Pictures.
Plot of “Groundhog Day”
Mill’s Utilitarianism in the Movie
Hindu Values in “Groundhog Day”