How a Film Becomes a Cult Classic

Question: How did “Groundhog Day” become a classic film?

Danny\r\n Rubin:  Well, it wasn’t an overnight success in that way.  I mean, I\r\n think when it first came out, generally the reviews said, “Another \r\ncomedy by Harold Ramis.  It’s kind of cute.”  Two, two and half star \r\nkind of reviews.  But there were other places where people seemed to dig\r\n it right away.  I was getting letters from Germany and from England.  A\r\n lot of fans in England who just thought it was an extraordinary movie \r\nand my feeling was I felt justified.  I was like, “Yeah, that’s what it \r\nwas supposed to be.”  And it was just very slowly that people realized \r\nthat everybody was sort of saying, “Oh, have you seen "Groundhog Day?"  It\r\n was really good.”  And it was just sort of a buzz started developing \r\nand then little things started happening.

Like, there was a big \r\nBuddhist convention in San Francisco and somebody delivered a paper \r\nabout "Groundhog Day" and Buddhism and people realized that people were—psychologists were showing it to their patients, prescribing it and all \r\nkinds of different religious disciplines were embracing it and giving \r\nsermons and lectures and writing important papers based on the \r\nphilosophy of "Groundhog Day."

And Harold Ramis was also getting \r\nletters and notes and the two of us would compare things and say, “Wow, \r\nthis is really interesting.”  And then, at some point, I guess Roger \r\nEbert wrote, not a retraction, but a new review that sort of said, “I \r\nthink we should revisit this movie.  I think this is a little better \r\nthan I thought.”  And I know at the end of the year that it came out \r\nin’93, William Goldman, the screenwriter, was reflecting on movies of \r\nthe past year and he was the one who wrote, "I think 'Groundhog Day' is \r\nthe one that will be—of all of the movies that came out this year, \r\nit’s the one that will be remembered in 10 years,” and perhaps that gave\r\n it some street cred or got some people thinking.

But, I don’t \r\nknow.  I think people just like it and a little bit at a time, it \r\nstarted to develop this, not exactly a following, but an awful lot of \r\npeople who identified with it.

Question: What makes \r\npeople identify so strongly with the movie?

Danny Rubin: \r\n I haven’t thought a lot about that, but everybody seems to have their \r\nown reason and that’s what makes it so remarkable.  Everybody seems to \r\nbring their own way of thinking and their own discipline to bear on the \r\nideas within it and would express this is absolutely describing the \r\nessence of Judaism.  This is the essence of Nietzsche’s philosophy.  \r\nThis is the essence homeopathy.  I mean, I’ve seen all of this.  I think\r\n there's something about - I think we understand how people grow and \r\ndevelop.  Okay, I have a few answers.  I think I understand how people -\r\n we understand how people grow and develop in a linear time fashion.  \r\nHow you have an adolescence at a certain age and you start to develop \r\nadulthood and you start to mature.  But, I think the movie shows that it\r\n is the repetition of days itself which pushes us forward in our own \r\nmaturation as we start to encounter the same things over and over again.

And\r\n so, there's an element of truth to the fact that we are repeating the \r\nsame day over and over again.  But, I think the biggest thing that \r\naffects people is the fact that Phil is presented with the exact same \r\nday and the very first time he’s presented with it, it’s probably the \r\nworst day of his life.  And, by the end of the movie, we see that it’s \r\nthe exact same day but somehow this is probably the best day of his \r\nlife.  It’s the day he fell in love and she fell in love with him and \r\neverybody loves him and he was living a fulfilling life pursuing culture\r\n and things that he loved and appreciating the day and doing good works \r\nand contributing to society and it makes it very clear that we are in \r\ncontrol of our day.  We can control our future.  There's something very \r\nempowering about it and
"Groundhog Day," it’s almost an experiment that \r\nsays, "See?  Here's a guy who is having a terrible day and he’s kind of a\r\n horrible person and just through the act of repetition and paying \r\nattention and remembering, he is forced to change who he is and by \r\nchanging who he is, he changes the life that he experiences the world \r\naround him.  That, I think, is the main thing that gets people very \r\nexcited about the movie.

Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman

At first, the critical consensus was that "Groundhog Day" was merely "cute." But over time it developed a mass following of viewers and critics alike.