Feb 8, 2010

Groundhog Day, Break Down

blizzardAct One (Phil is an Ass Hat)
00 min - Phil gives report
01 min - We meet Rita and Larry
02 min - Opening credits
05 min - Phil is a dick, Rita cheerful (Rita-Phil interaction)
08 min - First time: Groundhog Day
13 min - With the groundhog (Phil's report)
16 min - Trapped by blizzard (officer turns them back)
  This is Act One. It appears in two 10-minute chunks.

In the first 10-minute chunk, they establish who the characters are, why they're going to Puxatony, and what they think about the fact that they're going to Puxatony. This actually takes less time than implied: there are credits in there, and it's actually over by the 8-minute mark. Efficiency.

In the second 10-minute chunk, they take us through the first Day. Several side-characters are introduced and geography is established. We see Phil's report at Gobbler's Nob. And finally, they are turned around, trapped in Puxatony by a blizzard.

Notice, the scenes are averaging two or three minutes, tops.
that about sums it upAct Two - Chunk 1 (Denial)
19 min - Second time: Groundhog Day (first repeat)
26 min - Third time: Groundhog Day (broken pencil confirms)
28 min - Phil sees doctors (is it in Phil's head?)
30 min - New locations (bowling alley), admitting it's real
  At the 20-minute mark, they begin the first repetition of the Day. Five or six minutes later, they've started into the third Day, with the premise confirmed. They are moving into dealing with it - the complications have begun.

Phil tells Rita about his perdicament, visits doctors, and complains to strangers at the bowling alley. He talks about it in such a way that we know it's really happening. At the 30-minute mark, everything is in place, and the movie is and running. In fact, it's off and driving - and, with an action sequence. Interesting.

Because I've compressed the "days" into single entries, it is no longer transparent, but the fact remains, the scenes are averaging two or three minutes a piece. Things only slow down when Phil and Rita are together.

Note: some might consider this the third 10-minute chunk in the first act.

It works either way.
enjoying lifeAct Two - Chunk 2 (Hedonistic)
32 min - Getting reckless / crime
35 min - 4th time through, happy, no consequences
39 min - 5th time through, taking advantage, making plans (other women)
41 min - Finally: skipping ahead indeterminate amount of time (robbery)
42 min - Another skip - gags now - movie night
Here we have our first comedic "movement." These scenes all hang-together, creating a general direction for the action. This is Phil's "no consequences" phase, which progresses until it has become a "planning" phase.
All the scenes are still averaging two minutes, or less.

Something else significant happens here, and it's the thing I'm most interested in nailing: we break strict continuity and jump ahead an indeterminate amount of time. From that point onward, we skip freely ahead to future days.

To summarize their method: Phil realizes he can gather intelligence and use it in the future, and tries it out on Nancy. Then, we skip ahead to a point in the future where he uses that same method to an extreme: he predicts every movement around the armored truck, and snatches some money without even being noticed, thanks to his perfect knowledge of the situation. They set up the root of the concept, and then they skipped to the extreme end.
perfect momentAct Two - Chunk 3 (Goal Oriented)
43 min - Getting to know Rita (Rita-Phil interaction)
46 min - Fast repeats to woo Rita begin
50 min - Snow man scene, a perfect moment in snow
54 min - Phil spoils perfect day (pushing too hard)
This is the second movment. The "planning" phase becomes focused onto a goal. That goal is Rita.

Phil shows real interest in Rita, and then begins trying to woo her. As he tries to win her over, they introduce a new method for skiping ahead, doing fast cuts to the next "cycle," quick jump-cut repeats, where Phil corrects his errors and improves. At the end of this movement, he nears his goal, glimpses something he really wants, and then loses it. He is caught planning and scheming.

Note: this is a 90-minute movie. Great movies usually have a major turning point right in the middle. At 45-minutes, Phil begins focusing on Rita.
depressedAct Two - Chunk 4 (Hopelessness)
56 min - Back to snow man scene (desperate now)
57 min - Slap montage, dark turn, back to Groundhog reporting
58 min - Dark clock slo-mo, depressed Phil in bed, Jeopardy gag
59 min - Angry, clock smashing
60 min - Groundhog theft and suicide begins
65 min - Suicide is pointless, suicide montage
Here's the third movement. This is "things go from bad to worse." Phil cannot re-create the perfect moment in the snow. He is slapped again and again by Rita, at various repetitions of the cycle, at different points. The magic cannot be manufactured. He cannot cheat or master a short-cut.

Phil cannot go back to the games or the routine (the movie has indeed turned a corner, and become about Rita). Hopeless, Phil tries to free himself by killing the groundhog (and himself). This is also the movie's second action scene (the first was at 30 minutes, the second is at 60 minutes). Interesting.

Phil proves conclusively, he cannot escape the cycle, even by death.
confessing loveAct Two - Chunk 5 (Acceptance / Honesty)
66 min - I am a god
70 min - Rita believes him, proposes doing something more
74 min - Phil confesses love to sleeping Rita
75 min - Phil wakes up alone, has renewed attitude.
Here's the fourth movement.

This is when Phil has given up on escape, and has given up on games, and so, he tries acceptance and honesty. He tells Rita the truth about himself situation, and as a result, he experiences a real connection with her. From this connection, he receives renewed inspiration. He decides to improve himself.
not this dayAct Two - Chunk 6 (Self-Actualized)
76 min - Gives money to bum, brings coffee to Rita and Larry (improving self)
77 min - Self improvement montage begins
80 min - Tries to help homeless man
82 min - Phil's masterpiece Groundhog report (philosophical)
83 min - Phil helping others
And, here's the fifth movement - Phil becomes a better man. As the second-act comes to a close, Phil begins improving himself. His self-improvement progresses through petty talents, to include real knowledge about life and death, wisdom, and ultimately, to truly selfless acts of kindness.
lets live here Act Three
85 min - Groundhog ball
87 min - Dancing with Rita, everyone thanks him, he is selfless
90 min - Bachelor auction begins
92 min - Rita buys Phil
94 min - Phil & Rita kiss / are happy (Phil surprised by snow)
95 min - Fake-out "You Babe" - Rita turns off alarm
Everything culminates in the Groundhog Ball. There, Phil publically demonstrates his new character, and Rita publically expresses her approval. She brings him home, and the spell is broken.
So, the Question is -
What are the movements of a couple, sick at home? Getting Along? Then, mounting irritation? Then, open verbal conflict? Then, avoidance? Then, open physical war? Then, retreat? Those are what came to mind right now... Do they work? Can we start clustering scenes around those movements?