First, I must say that this movie is not great in the way that most Academy Award-winning movies are great (if indeed anyone could even agree on their greatness), but it’s great in its simple concept of having a way to do something over until you get it right.
Who hasn’t at some time in their life said that they wished they could have a certain day back to live over and do something they did a different way — or not do it at all: In other words, to have a second chance to make something right.
If we watch this movie with an eye toward the “reality” of the plot, it’s easy to see that that is exactly what we all need: a chance to work at life until we get it right.
Think about it: we do what we do because it seems like a good idea at the time; or it seems like the right thing to do; or it seems like it couldn’t hurt; or we don’t even put any thought into it at all.
But as we go along, experiencing the ramifications of some little thing we did, which then led to this or that, and then to the other thing, we realize that all our actions together, however tiny or seemingly insignificant, equal some outcome at some point with which we’re either okay or not okay; happy or not so happy — maybe even so far from happy that we’re miserable… to say nothing of the trail of consequences we leave behind us, causing others misery or pain.
But we did what we did, and now we can only live with those consequences. If only there were some way to fix our life and get it right!
Enter Groundhog Day…or another version of The Great Universal School for Undoing the Things We Did Wrong and Learning How to Do Everything Right.
Here’s how it would work: We might go through life holding grudges or automatically hating certain members of society, whether we know them or not, and not even realize how those feelings and/or behaviors not only did not serve us well, but held us back and created many problems for us, reflecting our poor choices. Then we passed on to the other side without having learned any better in this life.
Or let’s say we thought a little cheating in our financial matters would not make such a big difference to our rich clients, but that it would make a big difference to us, taking just a little bit from each.
Or imagine some other scenario that reflected your choices — choices that would not be universally considered the best of choices. And then you die.
Well, wait a minute now! If there is something we would call heaven, we certainly couldn’t go there having the mindset that would continue to hate our fellowmen, or cheat them, even in a small way. Who would want to spend eternity dealing with the same petty, nasty, or even major faults and failings of those who live here on Earth? I sure wouldn’t! Dealing with them here can be quite enough.
So what’s a fellow to do? Well, if that “fellow” cannot get it right here, while there is still time to make changes and hopefully undo any wrongs — which is the preferred plan — one will have to realize that there’s a lot of learnin’ awaitin’ him up ahead, on the other side.
I forget how times Bill Murray’s character had to “do it again” until he got it right (I did once count, and it was a lot more times than you’d think), but whether it was only three, thirty-three, or even 333 times, the lesson-opportunity would keep coming back till it was mastered.
And logic would tell us that we need to unlearn all the stuff we got wrong here and get the right stuff “in there” to lead us toward our perfection if we’re all going to spend eternity together without conflict and clashing. Imagine spending eternity with someone who hates you, or feels they’re so much better than you, or looks down on you, or resents you, because of the position you had while on Earth?
Imagine trying to understand how God could love everyone equally if you can’t even love this one person or that group enough to not kill them?
I definitely plan to watch my favorite movie again come this February 2nd, and see if I can learn anything new from it this time around. But even if I’ve squeezed every lesson out of it over these past 21 years, it has become for me my Groundhog Day classic, and a must-see movie, just as “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a must-see for the Christmas season.
I like the idea that a movie can be both entertaining and deeply moving on a spiritual level as well, without being the least bit religious or off-putting. And this movie — no matter how many others have tried to copy the concept since — makes its point so well: You’ve got to keep getting a lesson-opportunity until you finally “get it” — and do it right!
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.