Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Day: How Phil Connors Spent a Beardless Eternity

Actor:           Bill Murray
Year:            1993
Beard Type:  Brain Beard

What would you do with eternity?

If given the chance to live a single, pivotal day of your life over and over again within the limited universe of Punxsutawney on February 2, how would you dedicate your time? Surely, you would write bucketfuls of bucket lists and YOLO all over town without consequence, but what would you hope to ultimately achieve? 

Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors was given that chance. What first was an excuse to feed his own ego became a reason for Phil to ultimately become a better human being. Within a loop that possibly lasted almost 34 years, Phil learned blues piano, became a doctor, sculpted ice angels, kidnapped a famous rodent, killed himself many times, saved a kid's life (without ever being thanked), learned French to become an expert in 19th-century French poetry, memorized an episode of Jeopardy, broke many alarm clocks, tricked a complete stranger into falling in love with him, scored tickets for Wrestlemania, played chicken with a train, spent 6 months throwing playing cards into a hat, saw Heidi II a hundred times, gave a dying old man a last meal, gave another dying old man the heimlich, endlessly researched and engineered the near-perfect date, learned everything about everyone in Punxsutawney, and pretty much became a god. Phil Connors could do anything.

Except grow a beard.

Phil truly understood his circumstances once he spent the night in jail and mysteriously woke up in his hotel bed for the third day in a row. At this point, Phil's brain became a sponge as he learned everything he could possibly manage. Memories and motor skills carried on throughout the loop, but his physical presence could never change, no matter how much cake he swallowed or how many times he committed suicide. He neither aged a day nor gained a pound. Even after Rita admits she likes a man with a good body, we never see Phil work out for a single minute because he knew it would be a waste of time. He cannot change himself, physically. And that's why he could never grow a beard. 

Perhaps the most genius aspect of Groundhog Day is that nothing is ever explained. Something real weird happens to an egotistical weatherman, and we just have to suspend that disbelief. Why did this happen? How did this happen? Why Phil? The answer is: who cares? We don't need to know those answers because it has no positive effect on the plot. In today's Hollywood, audiences are spoon-fed their storylines with every dumb question answered. We never needed to know that Darth Vader was once a stupid pod-racing, sand-hating baby, but here we are. Without knowing every unnecessary detail about everything, we are able to theorize about the movie and hopefully respect it even more. We could spin yarns till the cows come home about how this happened to Phil Connors and who was responsible. Like, maybe Phil's beardless eternity was triggered when this bearded man pulled the groundhog out of the hole:

Maybe this bearded dude is a magician? After all, he is wearing a top hat. And maybe once he saw just how much Phil hated Punxsutawney, the bearded magician decided to magically trap Phil within a Punxsutawney purgatory in which growing a beard as good as his was utterly impossible. See how stupid that sounds? Right, so shut up.

Any adult male stuck in this loop would surely include "grow a real bitchin' beard for a real long time" somewhere on that bucket list. But not once do we see Phil shave his face or get a hair cut. His body simply resets every morning at 6AM. Hence, a bulk set of Mach 5 replacement cartridges is no longer a necessity. Phil goes through many highs and many cold, dark lows throughout this loop. In the darkest times, every sign of an impending Depression Beard was on display, from the erratic, suicidal behavior to Jeopardy-induced whiskey binges. However, his face remained as smooth as Dan Akroyd's Crystal Head vodka.

And perhaps Phil was okay with this. Society associates beards with manliness...with godliness. Phil transcended the beard and proved his worth as a human being without the power of the beard. It took him decades to learn just who he really was, and the ultimate punishment was having to find himself without the power of the beard. In return, he escaped this loop with a new lease on life knowing that he would once again be able to grow a beard if he wanted to. So even though Phil didn't have a beard on his face, he certainly had a beard on his brain. 

Knowledge is power.

Beard is power.

Knowledge is beard.

Does that make sense? Of course not.

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