Unusually for a mainstream Hollywood three-act drama, with solid character arcs and all the rest of it, Groundhog Day has no Mentor figure guiding the protagonist: no sagacious hobo, mad professor, or salty sidekick for Phil. He must work out his salvation, with fear and trembling and many attempts at suicide (toaster in the bathtub, swan dive off the bell tower), all by himself. He must organize his own jailbreak from the pusilla anima, to use the terminology of the theologian Robert Barron, and into the magna anima: from the small soul into the great one. How long does it take him? How long does he spend in the loop? Danny Rubin gets asked this a lot, apparently, by preoccupied fans. To me, it never seemed that important: A week, 100 years, who cares? The point is not the duration but the stasis. “Suffering is one very long moment,” wrote Oscar Wilde in De Profundis. “We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves.
The Atlantic’s James Parker on the subtle power of “Groundhog Day”