Philosophy at the Movies
I really love the movie Groundhog Day. It’s funny and sweet, yet also deep and edgy. I love what it says about trying to do the right thing, about trying to get it right, about failing and trying again. And again, and again, of course.
Bill Murray is a cynical weatherman who covers Groundhog Day ceremonies for his TV station, arriving in Punxatawney, PA with his crew. Rita (his producer, played by Andie MacDowell) and Larry (the cameraman, played by Chris Elliott) seem happy and professional enough to want to do the job right, no matter that it’s not a career-making assignment.
The problem is Phil, who feels that the segment is beneath his talents. The other problem is that, as much as he can’t wait to get out of town, he simply…can’t. When he keeps waking up on the morning of February 2, and beginning Groundhog Day all over again, he realizes that he’s caught in some kind of cosmic loop. He doesn’t know how he ended up here, and he can’t get out of it, either, no matter what he tries. And he tries just about everything.
Rita’s favorite drink, a Sweet Vermouth on the Rocks with a Twist, is actually a minor character in the film. The first time we meet the cocktail, the crew is stuck in town due to car trouble, as well as an impending snowstorm. There’s nothing to do but wait it out. Phil finds Rita at the local bar, where he offers to buy her a drink. It’s clear that he hopes there might be some strings attached, but it’s just as clear that Rita isn’t at all interested. She orders her favorite and explains her affinity for it, saying how much it reminds her of Rome. Phil (who is a little short with the bartender – a total pet peeve of mine) is visibly disgusted by even the sound of her cocktail.
Enter Vermouth Again…
But by the next time they meet at the bar (in the same clothes, on the “same” evening) he thinks he has the upper hand, since he’s the only one who remembers that they’ve all been here before. He again offers to buy her a drink, and orders her favorite for himself, before she can say anything. She’s pleasantly surprised at this unexpected connection between them. He smarmily thinks that he can parlay their cocktail twinning into something more.
As we see the scene play out several times, we watch him pretend to love the cocktail to her face, yet shudder at the taste behind her back. He also plagiarizes her special toast and her monologue about Rome. His goal in polishing each delivery doesn’t change. But we also see him growing more accustomed to the taste of the drink – going from a near-choke to seeming to take it in stride.
Simultaneously, his other daily adventures (learning to play the piano, saving a boy who falls out of a tree every afternoon, becoming kinder to his old classmate, and more) show us all the ways he sees that he needs to do better, and all the ways that he’s growing.
It’s really the Sweet Vermouth that starts to demonstrate his growth for us, as it shows us his craven instincts right alongside his growing consciousness. It’s worth seeing!
Because of my love of the movie (and Rome) I thought this would be a good cocktail, maybe even a keeper for me.
I was wrong! But maybe there’s a cocktail out there that can utilize Sweet Vermouth (also known as Rosso or Red Vermouth) and still taste good. Stay tuned – there’s still a whole bottle in the liquor cabinet!
Sweet (or Rosso, or Red) Vermouth
- Pour vermouth over ice in a highball glass; add the twist.
- You’ll feel like something’s missing, but that’s it. That’s unfortunately it.
|FAILED on an early day in the Pandemic