It seems like almost every day someone approaches me and asks, “How long did Bill Murray spend trapped in the film Groundhog Day?” And I always say, “Hmmm, that's not the most timely of questions, but I'll do my best to answer it.”
Actually, Groundhog Day was on TBS yet again and a wave of Geek OCD hit me. I was compelled to count the days and find just how many days Phil Connors spent in Punxsutawney. According to Harold Ramis, on the Groundhog Day DVD commentary, Bill Murray spent 10 years trapped in his own little corner of hell... Punxsutawney (I kid Tawney, I'm sure you're lovely). But this seems like an arbitrary number. We can do better than that.
There are, at least, 36 separate days shown in the movie including his multiple death scenes. There could be more, but it's hard to verify if some moments are simply later in the same day or an entirely different day. Additionally, in the scene where Bill Murray revealed he's a god, he stated, “I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned.” Of those the movie only showed electrocution, so that brings it to a base line of 42 accountable days. However, there were many days not shown. We know from the scene when Billy Murray and Andy MacDowell are throwing playing cards into a top hat that it would take, “Six months. Four to five hours a day, and you'd be an expert.” So, we have a bare minimum of six months.
In the first half of the movie, the only other truly time consuming event was the the robbery. Let's give him at least a month to plan a proper bank robbery and memorize when wind gusts. This brings us to roughly 256 days by the time he decides he wants to be a better man. However, becoming a better man is the most time consuming part of Phil's journey! He needs to become an expert pianist, an ice sculptor, and learns French. The tough part about this is that is that no one learns these things at the same rate. He could be a very old piano wunderkind after all. Or it could take him 600 years to become a decent ice sculptor. For the sake of argument let's say it takes an average person 3 years to learn to play the piano. It also would take an average person 3 years to become a professional ice sculptor. However, we don't know how good Phil was at either... maybe, he just learned one song, or just how to sculpt Andy MacDowell's face. But for the sake of argument, let's say three years apiece. And he cannot do both at the same time because an ice sculpture is 8 hours of work, and he only has a small window each day to get a piano lesson. Learning French which is also subjective. It's safe to say it would take him, at least, 2 years to learn enough French to read French poetry.
Which puts us at the grand total of 3176 repeated Groundhog days, or 453 weeks, or 105 months, or 8.7 years. Precisely, 8 years, 8 months, and 16 days. So, in the end Harold Ramis was right and I wasted a Bill Murray length of my time. But I made the hash marks, and I was going to do the math!
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