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For me, the annual event of Groundhog Day has come to represent more than a seasonal predictor. Coming just a month after the start of the New Year, February 2nd is the perfect check-in point to take a spiritual accounting and assess whether we are repeating the past or consciously creating our future.
Here are three movies that will inspire, entertain, and empower you to look at life through a fresh lens this Groundhog Day.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Everything starts with the classic. Ever since Bill Murray played a cynical weatherman covering the annual Punxsutawney Phil festivities in Pennsylvania, February 2nd has taken on a reflective hue. The film, a 1993 comedy, chronicles the predicament of Phil Connors (Murray) who finds himself in a time warp where every day repeats as Groundhog Day. Early on he is frustrated and confounded by the circumstance and continues to fall victim to the same negative repetitive patterns day after day.
However as the day continues to repeat he realizes that even as the world around him remains exactly the same, he holds the secret to experiencing it in a different way. The film provokes its viewers to reevaluate the role their own attitudes and actions play in their everyday lives, questioning whether they are passive actors simply reacting to the “movie” of life, or conscious creators determining their experience. The film is a testament to the innate power we all carry to create our world.
Big Night (1996)
Released in 1996, The Big Night follows two Italian immigrant brothers, Primo and Secondo, trying to save their failing restaurant in 1950s New Jersey. Filled with a stellar cast that includes Stanley Tucci, Isabella Rossellini, and Tony Shalhoub the film examines the challenges of holding onto a dream that no one else appreciates or understands with stubborn defiance only to be met with disappointment and rejection at every turn. Day after day the brothers stick to the same routine — making traditional dishes instead of catering to the desires of finicky Americans — with disastrous results.
When a fellow restauranteur offers to help them save their place by securing the famous singer Louis Prima to dine at their restaurant the brothers put everything they have into one celebratory night in the hopes that their over-the-top efforts will save their business. Big Night is at once a comedy, at second glance a movie with a more fascinating message challenging our notions of staying stuck in routine at the expense of our spirit. Tucci, who wrote and directed the film, offers the battle of Primo, the set in his ways perfectionist at odds with his brother Secondo, open to adventure, new possibilities and the magic of the unknown. The eternal tale of the prison of the ego versus the freedom of the soul. In the end they find something sweeter than a saved business, they discover the beauty of living in the moment and the gifts that come from staying true to your heart.
Along the way the soundtrack is filled with the soothing cadence of voices like Stornelli Amorosi and Matteo Salvatore and the visual beauty of delicious Italian gourmet delights.
Sliding Doors (1998)
This 1998 indie gem stars Gwyneth Paltrow in a superb role as Helen, a London executive whose life splits into two tracks moments after she is fired and running to catch a train home. In one scenario she makes it, in the other she misses it.
Using parallel timelines the film follows Helen after that pivotal moment into a world where everything seems to move forward in possibility and another where she falls deeper and deeper into stagnation. The worlds later converge with a startling event leaving our heroine once again at a crossroads where she finds a second chance to rediscover the life that eluded her when she missed the train.
The film examines the role undesired change brings to our lives — whether a lost job, break-up, death, or other tragic unfortunate turn of events — and contends that our choices in those moments are pivotal raw material by which we either spin gold or bury ourselves in the muck. The ultimate message presented by Sliding Doors is a comforting one, that we can never truly lose what is meant for us.