Once I got a job because I said being a marketing director for a symphony orchestra was like being in the movie “Groundhog Day.” I explained, every season you have the same number of concerts to promote and it’s your job to do it better, take a fresh approach, and redeem yourself, even though it looks exactly the same as the year before. It was a spontaneous, witty remark and since spontaneous and witty was so unfamiliar in the symphony world, it landed me the job and a cross-country move to Cleveland, Ohio.
Ever since that time, the movie “Groundhog Day” has had a resonant appeal. It has been a reminder that things are never what they seem, that there is deep meaning beyond the mundane surface, and narcissism is highly overrated. I always thought that I was the only one to see profundity into what seems like a simple Bill Murray comedy, but in reality is a philosophical masterpiece. That is until I heard this episode on ‘The Tabolowski Files.” Stephen Tabolowski is a character actor who appears in the movie as Ned Ryerson and produces the highly entertaining public radio show that bears his name.
He makes a compelling case on why the movie is more than a comedy, how it evolved from a money-making formulaic enterprise into a risk-taking courageous view on self-actualization. It moves from wish mongering to transformation via the simple act of editing. Sometimes courage is as much about what you omit as what you bring to the party. For me the most poignant moment in “Groundhog Day” will always be when the main character played by Bill Murray forgets about his needs and desires and immerses himself in the happiness and security of those around him. To this day, whenever I hear the Sonny & Cher song “I Got You, Babe” I don’t hear the syrupy pop love song, but I hear the transformational moment in the movie when the focus finally moves from “what can you do for me” to “what can I do for you” and the 6:00 a.m. alarm never rings, again.
Moral of the story? If all your days start to look the same and you feel like you are living the same day over and over again, it may be that you are focused on the “me” versus the “you.” A simple change of focus creates a tipping point, a fulcrum, a day that changes from gloom to newly fallen snow, and a life that changes from boredom to exhilaration. The movie moves from mayhem to poetry by understanding that wants are different than needs and purpose is found and not given. It is also a reminder that a classic is made when you give it time, trust the message, and are willing to take risks. It's a message I needed to be reminded of tonight, and it makes me ever so thankful for living in a world where reruns and movie channels can still administer a powerful dose of reflection.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012