Saturday, February 2, 2013

All I Needed to Know I Learned from Bill Murray and a Rodent

"Good morning wood-chuck chuckers! Don’t forget your booties because it’s cold out there!!”

Of course, Groundhog Day is perhaps the greatest Bill Murray rodent-based movie since Caddyshack. It’s one of those movies that features Bill Murray at his Bill Murrayest, back before he met Wes Anderson and doing a bunch of serious type movies and before he became the coolest guy in New York by going to bars with fans and playing random games of kickball. Bill Murray is the man! Do you know who doesn’t like Bill Murray? Bad people and super villains.

 As readers to this site don’t really know, I’m a bit of a Bill Murray fan, and the running theory over at Bad Shakespeare ( just reminding you... you know, for the kids)is that there is a Bill Murray movie for every occasion. And while we tend to lump Groundhog Day in with the annual event on the second of February where a rodent with a record of predicting the weather that’s just a little worse than meteorologists predicting snow in Washington, DC, this movie is actually about life. Not just the day where we use a magical rodent telling us about the weather as an excuse to get drunk before 8 a.m.

In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray is forced to live one day over and over and over and over again. And over. Harold Ramis (Egon Spangler/Director) said on the DVD commentary that Bill Murray’s character was caught in that time loop for either 10,000 years or 10 years.  That’s a bit of a time gap, but I can kind of see where he was going with it I mean, he’s the director, but he should probably know, but he’s also Egon so he can really do no wrong as long as he’s not unleashing giant Twinkie on New York City. I kind of like the 10,000 years, because it goes with the theme of movie, that being that life can suck big time, and ultimately, life is what you make of it.

Bill Murray (Look, we can call him Phil, but he’s playing Bill Murray.) is living the same day over and over again. Take a look at the day he lives on the first day of the movie, then take a look at the day he lives on the last day of the movie. That is the exact same day. Yes, Bill Murray in his 10,000 (or possibly 10) years learns the real secret of life is to be nice to everyone, and make the most of every single day. And yes, by the end of it he does that. You don’t need me to tell you that. You just need to watch the movie. You should go watch it again. I can wait.

That was a fun two hours, and hopefully you cheered as you recognized a young Chris Elliot before he let himself go all weird and fun.

The point that people tend to miss when watching Groundhog Day and learning all about living each day to its fullest is the fact that Groundhog Day shows us how HARD it is to live each day to it’s fullest. And that’s a great message. (Relax, folks. It also shows us that you should keep pursing the ability to live each day to the fullest.)

While living this day, Bill Murray gets so frustrated he kills himself in a hilarious (?) montage sequence of ending it all. He doesn’t get it right the first time. Sometimes, he’s selfish and eats a ton of pastries. He gets depressed and kidnaps a rodent. He doesn’t get it right.

And that’s the lesson that’s difficult for us to learn. We want to make things better, we want to improve, we want to live each day to it’s fullest, but we tend to let ourselves get set back by the little things. Hey, I’m on this diet, but I’m CRAVING a cheeseburger. Hey, I want to start cooking more, but I got home from work soooo late. I promise to spend less time watching television but there’s a Star Trek marathon on. Hey, I want to stop punching squirrels but this one just cut me off in traffic and I think he yelled something anti-Semitic. The thing is, and the message of the Bill Murray classic, is that we don’t let those things set us back. We take our lumps. We go out for that fast food. We watch that Star Trek marathon. We spend a night in jail for attacking a squirrel. But the point of this movie is that we just keep trying to be better.

Movies are littered with inspirational methods and inspirational quotes and inspirational moments and inspirational everything that are quoted and put on T-Shirts or on black and white pictures. And while they’re great, they skip past this messy part where we try to figure everything out and put ourselves on the journey of being better people. That’s what Groundhog Day does. It takes us through that messy part, it takes us through the terrible growing pain that is life, and improving ourselves.

We should all strive to improve ourselves. We should all strive to be better people. Just one small step at time. One day at a time in our 10,000 year journey towards winning Andi MacDowell’s love. Bill Murray didn’t figure it out all at once. And even when it look like he was winning he still got pulled back to meeting Ned on that street and stepping in that puddle. He had to learn to navigate the complexities of that one day... and it took him 10,000 years to do it. We’re given considerably less time. And that’s half the fun, figuring out what works, and what doesn’t work.

That’s the sheer brilliance of a movie that features Bill Murray and a groundhog driving a car off a cliff.

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