by Lee Cross
What does Groundhog Day mean to you?
To me, it’s the day that a self-obsessed weather-man, has to live over and over again, until he comes to realize the flaws within himself, and ultimately finds a form of redemption.
Apparently though, Groundhog Day is a real thing (something I’m not entirely sure I knew before the internet existed), that really does happen in America (and perhaps the world – I’ve never bothered Googling that far), and really hasn’t the first thing to do a mysterious time loop, which forces us all to relive the 2nd of February countless times.
And that there, in a nutshell, is why I love the movie Groundhog Day; it’s the simplicity of the writing, the good-natured tenor to the humour throughout; and the fact that it sticks to the first and most essential rule of all great fantasy writing: – “Because I said so”.
- Why does the 2nd of February keeping happening? – Because I said so.
- Why is only one man (Phil Connors) affected? – Because I said so
- Why does the loop mysteriously break? – Because I said so.
That’s the one thing that make great writing, which is centered on an act of magic, great; is that you don’t need to explain how it works, and the audience never stops to question that fact (be they, readers or viewers). If you lose that battle, then you’ve lost the audience, because they are concentrating on the wrong elements(s) of the story and missing the actual point.
Literally, the best example of this is STAR WARS. In the original trilogy (especially A New Hope) you never once stop to question how The Force works, and why only the Jedi can control it – not once – The Force just works and exists because George Lucas said so.
Strike forward a decade to the prequel movies, and the child Anakin Skywalker saying, “but Master Qui-Gon, what are Midichlorians?”. Well, Anakin (see also, GEORGE), nobody truly gives a shit, and you’ve just opened yourself up to the whole area of questioning that has absolutely nothing to do with the bloody plot.
Groundhog Day, sits on the other end of the scale to The Phantom Menace; it’s simple and unapologetically cheesy; the comedy writing is economical, yet harnesses that repetition superbly; and while the movie is, ultimately, a morality tale, it never once shoves those morals down your throat.
I’m no devotee of cinema (I describe myself as someone who likes good books, and bad movies), but I appreciate good writing and, along with Back…to the Future, I don’t know that I’ve ever across a better example this particular genre of writing.
Happy Belated Groundhog’s Day everyone.
[Note: I love the movie, and was fortunate enough to see the also excellent musical on Broadway recently: If you read this blog, and have seen neither, I warmly recommend both]