Are We Doing This Again?
Examining how "Groundhog Day" and others reveal the power of the replay.
By now, you’ve probably heard the news that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow and we’re in for another six weeks of winter. But did anyone care about Groundhog Day until Groundhog Day? It’s not about the holiday, after all, but the replay — “Quantum storytelling”, if you will! What better way to celebrate compulsive deja vu than by revisiting a classic Fandor video essay of yore?
Of course, time loops alone don’t make a film Groundhog Day-esque. But we can’t help but notice that, twenty-five years on, Groundhog Day continues to be a blueprint for movies being made today — and not just because they use time loops! Whether cleverly adapted for the horror genre, like last year’s Happy Death Day...
...or re-imagined for the millennial set, like in the forthcoming When We First Met, on Netflix starting February 9:
Certain specific facets of the original 1993 film abide, like:
- Waking up. In both Happy Death Day and Groundhog Day, the main character keeps waking up on the same day. In both movies, a persistent song serves as the wake-up call reminding them that they are trapped in a loop: in Groundhog Day it’s Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe”, and in Happy Death Day, it’s 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”.
- Romantic antics. Bill Murray uses the conditions of his temporal imprisonment as a means to woo Andie MacDowell, but in When We First Met, wooing is the raison d’etre for temporal disruption in the first place. It also lifts the “what’s your drink” bit from Groundhog Day nearly wholesale.
- Self-awareness. Bill Murray’s not trying to save the world, he’s just trying to get out of an endless cycle. But in the process, he kind of saves himself. This is the premise in both Happy Death Day, where the heroine is also literally trying to save herself from her own murderer, and When We First Met...at least, we hope.
While “Groundhog Day" has become shorthand for bad déjà vu, we don’t have a problem with seeing these plot devices persist, as long as we don’t forget where they came from in the first place. With that, we’ll leave you to plan your next six weeks of winter watching. Stay cozy out there, and remember: if you find yourself in a time loop, always figure out how to make it work in your favor.
Video by Jonathan Kiefer.