Groundhog Day correction

A number of people have mentioned an issue with today’s comic—in the movie Groundhog Day, it’s actually implied that Phil, Bill Murray’s character, didn’t have sex with Rita. He took her home to his room, but they woke up in the same clothes they fell asleep in. I haven’t seen the movie in a number of years, but I think they’re right—and bit of Googling suggests that I’m not the only one who was confused on that point.

Groundhog Day is, like Office Space, a comedy containing a gimmick that really sticks with you, even as the rest of the story fades. Or, at least, it did with me—I’ve probably seen the movie a couple of times, but I think I’ve spent a lot more time dwelling on the time loop scenario it describes. Now that people have raised the question, I’m not even sure that I interpreted the scene this way when I was watching it.

From a sci-fi point of view, the whole idea that the time loop was broken by emotional/personal development seemed kind of cheesy, but I just chalked that up to one of those things movies do because that’s how we like stories to work. Nobody wants a movie where the climax consists of an hour of excitedly inferring and testing revisions to the standard model of physics. (Or, at least, there aren’t enough of us to support a big-budget movie.) So while drawing my comic, I remembered that the time loop ended after he took Rita back to his room, and I filled in the typical romanticized Sleeping Beauty idea that I assumed had gone with it.

I appreciate the corrections—in addition to being a reminder to double-check pop culture references, it’s driven home for me what a neat, original movie Groundhog Day really is.

And now I wonder what kind of misconceptions I have about Ghostbusters.

335 thoughts on “Groundhog Day correction

  1. Is attributing the breaking of the time loop to the development of Bill Murray’s character possibly an example of “post hoc” thinking? Perhaps I am more Kafka-esque in my thinking, or perhaps I have spent more time with random events, but I took the movie as another example of how we plan our lives but still are subject to things we don’t control. IE, nothing Mr Murray was doing “caused” him to enter the time loop and nothing Mr Murray was doing “caused” him to exit the time loop. Like all of us, you do the best you can with what you are dealt, even while stuck in a time loop.

  2. I thought it was parallel to 11:58, just Bill was stuck in the loop and it happened to randomly stop at some point of personal development instead of randomly stopping when he killed himself.

  3. I’m surprised no one has so far mentioned the award-winning 1987 time-loop novel “Replay” by Ken Grimwood. Publishers Weekly: “Grimwood has transcended genre with this carefully observed, literate and original story.” I concur. (And I also unabashedly like “Groundhog Day”.)

  4. Perhaps I am more Kafka-esque in my thinking, or perhaps I have spent more time with random events, but I took the movie as another example of how we plan our lives but still are subject to things we don’t control. IE, nothing Mr Murray was doing “caused” him to enter the time loop and nothing Mr Murray was doing “caused” him to exit the time loop. Like all of us, you do the best you can with what you are dealt, even while stuck in a time loop.su tesisatçısı

  5. In addition to what clothes they’re wearing, the movie is even more explicit that they didn’t have sex: after Phil realizes that it’s the next day, he starts kissing Rita and she says “Why weren’t you like this last night? You just fell asleep.”

  6. I also needed to check whether they had sex or not when I worked on my podcast scripts (Groundhog Day – Movie Life Principles). Rita’s comment “Why weren’t you like this last night? You just fell asleep.” and the fact that they were still dressed in the same clothes they went to the party with, make it clear. The movie has great learning potential.

  7. They did have sex on a previous night, but that scene is no longer in the version of the movie they put on TV. It comes right after he asks her a bunch of questions so he can get everything right so he can get her into bed.
    When he wakes up the next day without her, he is very disappointed that it didn’t break the loop.

    I guess a lot of people only saw the movie on TV and in the theater. The cut scenes can be a difference-maker apparently.

  8. I’m surprised no one has so far mentioned the award-winning 1987 time-loop novel “Replay” by Ken Grimwood. Publishers Weekly: “Grimwood has transcended genre with this carefully observed, literate and original story.” I concur. (And I also unabashedly like “Groundhog Day”.)
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  9. (I have not actually watched the movie, just read the synopsis so I’d know the plot… a long time ago… basically, if anything I say is wildly inaccurate, it’s not— well, it is my fault, but I’d rather not be blamed for it.)

    Why didn’t he just stay up all night, or, if other people are necessary, stay up all night with other people?

    Personally, if I was trapped in a time-loop, I’d read everything remotely interesting (I can always memorize the page number, but access can be a problem, so not everything, but, since it is a time-loop, I could try to sneak onto a plane or something without major repercussions) and then do all those stupid things I never tried to do because of the probability of death but sound fun before even trying to break the loop. Or maybe the other way around, since it would be bad to break out of the loop used to being invincible… it would be like getting invincibility in a game and then dying a lot when it runs out. And then, when I broke the loop, I could be the most educated person of my age (or just person) who ever lived and, um, do stuff.

    Also, in the movie, did he wake up in the same clothes every day or the clothes he’d gone to sleep in? If the second, I could do things that take longer than a day by printing them onto my clothes. Was there a weird thing with photographs? There is always a weird thing with photographs.

  10. Was looking for a place to contact you to wish you well and thank you for the beautiful comic “Two Years”. This seems to be as good a place as any.

    I always enjoy your work but this comic really touched me.

  11. I watch Groundhog Day every year, sometime in February. The repeated viewings have their own Groundhog Day quality as I see the objectively same movie over and over but get different meanings each time. It is also amusing to observe my own recollection of the movie shifts and I am still surprised by the sequence of some scenes even after 15 or so viewings. The sequence around the death of the old bum just won’t seem to stay fixed in my mind.

  12. I find it interesting that you named Bill/Phil by the actor’s name but Andie/Rita by the character’s name.

  13. The message of Groundhog Day is that Bill’s character can progress in time when he finally learns to love unselfishly. Implication is that God has put him in the time loop.

  14. You are getting so worked up on timeloop thing from a scifi perspective. Isn’t the whole movie just a variation of the abstract saying “The ones who do not know history is doomed to repeat it?”.

  15. Was looking for a place to contact you to wish you well and thank you for the beautiful comic “Two Years”. This seems to be as good a place as any.

    I always enjoy your work but this comic really touched me.

  16. hi hi

    This is likely to be entirely tangential, but I first watched Groundhog Day as a child in the theater, having been dragged there by my folks who really just wanted to watch it themselves.

    I was too young at the time to make too much sense of the romantic comedy portion of the movie, however, there was one scene that stuck with me to the exclusion of the rest of the movie. The scene where he tries to save the homeless man’s life stuck with me for years.

  17. the PRI show “the tobolowski files” did a whole show on “groundhog day”. the “time loop” thing WAS explained, but they cut out the explanation on purpose because..well..it was cheesy. and the did/didn’t have sex thing actually came down to a vote of the people working on set that day, and bill murray wouldn’t even come to the set until there was a decision. I’m not going to ruin it but hunt down the show if you want the whole story.

  18. What always made me wonder is: how is Phil going to live up to Rita’s expectations? He was a superman this one day for obvious reasons, but from now on no super-powers for him.

    This story has a ton of possible continuations. Did he tell her about the time-loop? Did she believe him? He has, like, a lifetime worth of stories he could tell about that one day, while he’d probably forgotten how to live a normal life. After all, he got used to “I screwed up? Uh, no matter. I’ll do it the other way tomorrow.” He must have all sorts of problems after waking up in a real “tomorrow”.

    And what if the next day is looped too? Like, every day lasts for years. Or, say, every day is looped unless he falls asleep with Rita. Or…

    Poor Phil.

  19. I was stuck in a time loop for a while. It was an interesting experience. I got out by accidentally wearing unmatched socks, and have been trying to get back in ever since. Hope this can help someone.

  20. People saying the time-loop stopped randomly that night are way off base, in my opinion. He was stuck in that loop for thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of days. That makes for an extremely compelling coincidence.

  21. Once heard an interview sometime ago on NPR about Phil’s “time” spent in the loop (it wasn’t the Tobolowski Files show). The original movie cut out a LOT of death scenes. The writer’s originally conceived of many more ways in which he could/would die. The implication was that Phil spent years reliving that same day. And whatever happens afterwards is immaterial because what the story has established is that Phil has changed, irrevocably. That was the point that the writers wanted to make (according to this NPR interview which I can not find – but seriously, not making this stuff up); it wasn’t what he did but who he became, as a person, that broke the loop.

    As an aside, I once had a disturbing conversation with co-workers on a slow night in the kitchen about the “nightmare scenario” to Groundhog Day. What if you found yourself in a loop and could do anything. Like Phil, at some point, you likely would do anything because experience tells you that there is no consequence to what you’re doing and you have no way of knowing when the loop will be broken. So what happens if you were to go on some horrible insane mental rampage only to wake up and find out that it’s suddenly the next day. Becoming the wonderful person you’ve always wanted to be doesn’t break the loop but becoming the terrible person you’d never have imagined you could be does. Apparently, my co-worker saw the movie when he was young and had nightmares about such a scenario for quite some time.

  22. Okay. Most of you are taking the time loop thing way to literally. It’s a metaphor. Phil’s emotionally stunted through the majority of the movie, focusing on accomplishing things (getting different women in to bed), but is unable to move on or to develop (or to get to 3 Feb.) because he is not emotionally developing.

    When he develops himself and matures, he finally is able to “win” Rita, also a metaphor for developing a life worth living.

    It’s not science, and it’s certainly not any god. It’s just a metaphor for personal development. Step out of the Tardis for a minute.

    Now, what was that thing about unmatched socks?

  23. Everytime I see this movie, I can’t help but think that the joke is on me and that it’s never really a time loop.. it’s just time progressing as it does, and eventually something different happens. Everything inbetween then and now is just what it was.

    That’s why I get my revenge by also watching it every year around groundhog day. Two can play at this game, mother lover.

  24. Just another random thought. If Phil really did sleep with Rita, and this interrupted the loop, that would give a complete new meaning to ‘coitus interruptus’.

  25. Sci-fi? Physics? Groundhog Day is a romantic comedy. Although admittedly not your “typical” romantic comedy because of all of the far-out metaphysical and psychological questions it raises. But it’s still a romantic comedy.

    When I used to watch the movie as a kid with my dad, he would explain the ending as “Bill Murray found true love, so it broke the spell.”

  26. I don’t suppose anyone has seen “Happy Accidents” with Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio? It is another SciFi-Rom-Com, but at least attempts to explain how emotional energy can cause changes in the time-space continuum.

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  30. Followup: ah, scrolling upwards I see that Leonardo has already referenced the same 12:01. It’s good to know I wasn’t the only one scarred for life.

  31. What stuck with me most about this movie is that, when he gets all these piano lessons and does this performance, his teacher is so proud of him. But as far as she knows, she had only had him as a student for 1 day!

  32. Groundhog Day is, perhaps, the best western movie about Budhism.
    He is born, lives and dies everyday, over and over untill overcoming his negitive dharma, he becomes enlightened, an awakened man.

  33. ay is, perhaps, the best western movie about Budhism.
    He is born, lives and dies everyday, over and over untill ove

  34. Groundhog Day was about Rita, not Phil.

    What ultimately happened? Phil’s personality is destroyed, replaced with Rita’s dream man. Rita benefits. Phil just suffers until his mind is shattered and replaced with something custom-made to make Rita happy. All that time Phil spent doing the same day over is either Phil’s punishment, or the effects of some type of stroke.

    The movie is about God working a miracle to bless His beloved Rita.

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