As the movie progresses Phil wakes up the next morning, only it's not the next morning. It's Groundhog Day again. So he relives the same day. But then it just keeps happening over and over again. Everyday when he wakes up, it's Groundhog Day. He gets tired of giving the same weather report over and over again, and he starts to literally drag through it. Sometimes he says outright offensive things on it. There are days when he skips it entirely, wondering what is the point when this day just keeps repeating itself. When he has had enough of repeating the same day over and over, Phil tries several times to commit suicide, once even dramatically doing a swan dive off a tall building. But the next morning he still wakes up in Punxsutawney and it's still Groundhog Day.
Phil has relived this day so many times that he knows almost everything about it. He can walk through the diner and tell his producer, Rita, about every person in the diner. He can predict exactly the moment when the waiter is going to drop a tray of dishes.
Phil decides to use all of this information to his advantage. You see portions of many Groundhog Days where Phil is accumulating information to try to get Rita to sleep with him by knowing her favorite things, saying the things she wants to hear, and doing romantic things to impress her. He tweaks his approach every day, based on what worked the day before and what didn't. But it always ends up the same way. Phil makes a move and gets slapped.
Ultimately, Phil decides to use the repeating day to improve himself. He takes piano lessons every day until he becomes quite proficient. He realizes where there are people in town in need, and he tries to get there promptly to help. He puts new energy into his weather report and he starts treating his co-workers better. In fact, he starts treating people in general better.
There were a few years before and after my divorce from my kid's mom when I felt stuck in Groundhog Day. It felt like every day was the same and just getting through the day was the best I could do. At least Phil got the benefit of a reset every day. He didn't have bills continuing to mount while he got his head on straight. I imagine that many of you have also felt this way and maybe still do.
Phil's biggest discovery is that he needed to focus on how he was showing up in his relationships and in the world. The key to a satisfying life was to show up with integrity and enthusiasm. In his efforts to help out, he does the Heimlich maneuver on a choking man and saves his life, he catches a little kid falling out of a tree, and he helps change a tire for a couple of old ladies that are stranded. But there is an old homeless man who he tries to feed soup to and otherwise assist, and the old man always dies. Phil tries everything he knows to keep this from happening. But each day it happens despite his best efforts. It's a little lesson in the fact that we don't control the things going on around us. If it was the old man's time to go, Phil was not going to be able to change that with hot soup and medical care.
Somehow in the middle of all of this madness, Phil gradually gets to know Rita on a deeper level by talking with her and observing how she is with him and others. So he gradually and genuinely falls deeply in love with her.
All of Phil's efforts to fake it by gaining more information about Rita over many repeating days, and using that information to manipulate her, never worked. He always ended up just getting slapped. You may find yourself racking your brains for the right things to say or do to impress a dating partner. It doesn't work does it? You may also find yourself molding yourself into what you think the other person wants you to be. Phil did that by finding things out about what Rita liked and pretending to be what she wanted. There is no integrity in getting lost in a relationship and forgetting who you are--whether you know you are doing it or not. Love is not in pretending. It is in vulnerability and authenticity. That is how we create deeper connection.
Having the right pick-up line or the right moves is not the key to creating love. Pretending to be something you're not is not going to create real love. It might get you a one-night stand. (It works for Phil with a girl named Nancy.) But it won't get you the love you want. At best, the other person will fall in love with the mask you are wearing instead of the real you. Then you will have the worry of keeping up the charade to avoid being found out.
In the end, all of Phil's efforts to make Rita his conquest and objectify her came to nothing. When he decided to find meaning through becoming a better and more enthusiastic person and worked at becoming that, Rita was attracted to him. It wasn't even about making all the difference for the people he tried to serve. It was in how he personally showed up. For all he knew, the world was just going to reset the next day anyway and it would always be Groundhog Day.
The makers of Groundhog Day suggest that Phil could have been stuck in Groundhog Day for as many as 10,000 years. Many mid-singles feel like they have been stuck in a rut that long.