With 484,149 votes, Groundhog Day has an 8.0/10 rating on IMDb.
A weatherman finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again.
Hoo boy. I’ll say this right off and tell you that Groundhog Day is absolutely not one of my favourite films. It’s alright, but it’s not something I’d choose to watch. Thanks to myriad cartoons I watched growing up that recycled the plot, I’m all too aware of what sort of tropes this storyline uses, and if you forced me to compliment the movie, I’d have to say that the soundtrack is excellent.
The problem with Groundhog Day is the lead. Bill Murray is for all I know, a great guy, and I enjoy him in other movies (Ghostbusters, for example) but Phil Connors, the lead of this film, is a total dickhead. Not just a dickhead, but a purely horrible person. It may have been the intent of the movie to show a bitter man confronting his flaws and through this curse of reliving the same day over and over again changing his ways and becoming a better person – but I see a negative man abusing the pseudo-reset button that his life has acquired to manipulate the people around him. He does good things for purely selfish reasons, including seducing women by acquiring information from them and using it in consecutive ‘attempts’ without their knowledge. That just leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I don’t enjoy movies with unsympathetic, manipulative leads.
Despite the priggishness of Connors, Murray plays him really well and is a comedic tour de force. That much has to be recognised. He’s very good at playing men with acerbic wit with more than the average helping of sarcasm and frustration. We see him break this personality once or twice which implies it may be a facade (such as the night of the instance where he tells Rita about his predicament) which does give the movie some stellar moments, admittedly.
There’s not much else to say. This movie is the pinnacle of “great idea, great execution” and while it may not be my cup of tea, I will admit it’s obviously a fantastic movie for those who can look past the negative actions of Phil Connors. Oh and the fact that while we learn of their backgrounds and histories, every character not played by Bill Murray is simply a plot device for furthering the character development of Connors himself.
Also if I ever have to listen to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” ever again I’m taking a toaster into the bathtub.
RYAN’S PSYCHOLOGY CORNER
Phil Connors in Groundhog Day lives the same day over and over and over again, experiencing his memories time after time. So what better a topic to talk about that déjà vu. So what better topic to ONLY KIDDING. Déjà vu is a tricky feeling. It means “already seen” in French and described it perfectly. Something happens, a series of events or a scene or a sound and you think “hang on, I’m sure this has happened before”. Some people ascribe this to premonitions or some sort of latent psychic power, or supernatural going ons, but we can look to neuroscience, the study of the functions of the brain, to see what’s happening.
One theory is that déjà vu results from a mismatch in the links between sensory information and memories. As you may know, there are distinct types of memory and one of those distinctions is between semantic and episodic memory. Episodic memory is concerned with events and the details around the events, for example remembering what things were like on your last birthday. Semantic memory is concerned with things and details associated with those things. So say you saw a dog on the train. You remember the location of the memory, the time of day, the scents and sounds probably too. Now your semantic memory is active here too. You know it’s a dog because you look at the animal on the floor and suddenly the links between your information stores fire and you connect the visual information (what a dog looks like) with the lexical information (what a dog is called).
Both episodic and semantic memory stores are associated most strongly with the medial temporal lobe which implies that if this phenomenon is a glitch in the memory system, which makes sense, then there should be flaws in this region that are noticeable when déjà vu occurs. In neuroscience we find out the function of different regions of the brain by studying those who have sustained damage to them. Studies of déjà vu almost exclusively come from studies on epilepsy patients. Something observed by Illman et al. is that patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (something that results in a pathological increase in déjà vu incidence) experience déjà vu regardless of the stimulus attended to. So they experience it whether or not they find the experience familiar independent of déjà vu. One would expect that in objectively novel situations with little to no overlap with past experiences it would be impossible to experience déjà vu but the alternative is true, implicating a misfiring brain as the cause of this complex little phenomenon. In fact, Brázdil et al. found fundamental differences in brain structure between people who experience déjà vu and people who never have.
EEG (a brain imaging device) data suggests that déjà vu generation begins in the right hemisphere of the brain and largely remains there, but possibly progresses as a result of faulty interaction between the two hemispheres which can in turn be related to hypometabolism in certain structures within the temporal lobe, such as the entorhinal and perirhinal cortices. This can lead to the alteration of neurons, maybe even causing neuronal death, but only in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. It appears that there may be a huge difference in the generation of déjà vu between epileptic patients and healthy patients, which just confuses things further. To put it in the simplest terms, when the part of the brain responsible for memory encounters a glitch, déjà vu can be the result, and this can be both natural and harmless, or the side-effect of an epileptic seizure with potentially harmful consequences.
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