Michaeline: Coming Soon: Groundhog Day

Andie MacDowell with a groundhog in 2008. From Wikimedia Commons.

Spring is coming! Gather ye groundhogs, while ye may.

Tomorrow is the midpoint of winter known as Groundhog Day in the U.S. and Canada, and I want to re-watch one of my favorite movies, the quirky time-travelling romance of the same name, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

Groundhog Day‘s  plot is deceivingly simple: a brash, obnoxious TV weatherman alienates co-workers, old acquaintances and complete strangers while on location when he finds himself in a time loop and can’t escape the time-space confines of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Early in the film, he hits on his beautiful producer, mostly to stab his cameraman in the back.  But as Phil Connors repeats the same minor holiday, he slowly turns into a better person, and falls deeply in love with Rita.

Is there a better metaphor for re-writing? We’re often brash, obnoxious writers during our first drafts, looking for gold and digging up dirt on our characters. Our writing is clumsy, and we don’t know our setting or our characters very well. But as we go back over the same scenes over and over, we learn more and more about what the story is. We turn into better writers, and we turn the words on the page into something more meaningful. And best of all, what starts as a crush on an idea turns into a deep love for a mature story.

Six weeks until spring, folks, if the groundhog sees its shadow. And if it doesn’t it’ll only be a month and a half. What can you get done before spring?

22 thoughts on “Michaeline: Coming Soon: Groundhog Day

  1. You have such a way with metaphor. And you’ve made me realize that I’m trying to get my first act to that last stage of deep, meaningful and mature when I should just be enjoying the crush stage. This was a lot easier when I didn’t know how it was supposed to come out looking.

  2. Okay, this isn’t about the metaphor (which is great!) but…

    Did you know the movie, set in PA, was actually filmed in Woodstock, IL? They have a big celebration of the movie every Groundhog Day, and they recreate the Prognostication scene exactly. It’s close (relatively) to where I live, and I’ve been wanting to go for years! My husband won’t go near anything so tacky, and my daughter won’t even watch the movie, but I think it would be fun. I’m not sure what this says about me.

    What do you think? Tacky to be avoided or kitschy in which to revel?
    http://woodstockgroundhog.org/

  3. I’d been wrestling with different parts of this post for about two weeks, and then it all clicked in my head Saturday morning when I woke up. (-: I wish that muse would come out to play a little more!

    I do recommend the movie. It’s quiet, but deep, and the title . . . is really horrible for drawing people in, but the more I think about it, the more I love it. (-: Without a shadow of a doubt, as Jilly says. I liked Caddyshack, too, but a lot of Bill Murray’s later work is very contemplative.

    I have to say, I’m a little sad Groundhog Day wasn’t shot in Punxsutawney, but it looks like the Woodstock people have done a fabulous job with it. If it were within a two-hour radius, I’d think about going, too. The event might be kitschy, but the people attracted to that kind of kitsch? I would think hearts of gold! It sounds like it would be a lot of fun. (The cold is what’s keeping me home this weekend, though.)

    • Okay, I have a confession to make, one that might get rotten tomatoes thrown at me, but here goes: I hate the movie Caddyshack. I hate it so much that it has become a family joke. If it ever comes up in conversation (which it sometimes does because my in-laws love it!), the family member who mentioned it turns to me without missing a beat and says, “Sorry, Nancy,” the way Catholics automatically cross themselves when talking about death.

      My feelings about Caddyshack have dampened my desire to watch Groundhog Day. But I do love the way you’ve used it as a metaphor for writing and rewriting and revising, so now I might just have to take a chance on it :-).

      • (-: No worries. I have no problem admitting that Caddyshack is a deeply, deeply flawed movie, and I’m not sure that I like the message that goof-offs are going to win the world. Bill Murray’s character is very bad — a war-mongoring perv. But his portrayal of it? That I can feel even one bit of sympathy for his side of the story is really a triumph of acting (I don’t think it’s a triumph of writing).

        But, Groundhog Day is different. True, Bill Murray starts off with his trademark obnoxiousness, but he does come to grips with himself. If you thought Ghostbusters was OK, and you like redemption stories, it’s worth taking a chance on. (Bill Murray never *really* redeemed his obnoxious character in Ghostbusters, but he was slightly more likeable than his character in Caddyshack. He had some brains and hustle going for him. He’s got a lot more going for him as Phil Connors after the first act is over.)

  4. Great movie and analogy! We watch that movie every year.

    Editing is actually my favorite part of writing- it energizes me. 1st drafts take a lot out of me. Going back and finding the right or image to convey the point is like detective work and is so fun.

    Call me crazy 🙂

    • I watched it again last night, and was charmed, all over again. It’s such a nice feeling to end a cold February day so warm and fuzzy! (I goofed up on a plot point above, though. Phil didn’t hit on Rita to stab Larry the cameraman through the heart. But that would have been an early-Phil move, I think . . . . )

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