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Structuring a Trope

There are a ton of cinematic tropes that are found in the writings of a script. From the classics of the enemy’s forbidden love to the character trope of a damsel in distress. This article is focused on the structure of a trope to tell a story. First being coined with the film ‘Groundhog Day’ the trope structures the entirety of the film. For the main protagonist, one day is repeated over and over again until there is a “curse” broken. With only the main character experiencing this, there is a lesson that they must learn in order to get back to normal life. 

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This list of films explores the trope and puts a twist to it to give the audience something new while knowing that the style works. 

‘Groundhog Day’ (1993)

To begin with, we must go back to the original film that made this trope popular. In 1993 ‘Groundhog Day’ was released starring Billy Murray and Andie MacDowell. Murray plays Phil a narcissistic weatherman who is sent to film a report about Groundhog’s Day but finds himself in a constant loop of that same day. This romantic comedy sets the perfect stage for a structural revamp of romcoms in general.  Phil realizing the unexplained oddness of the repeated days but testing the boundaries of what the days could bring. This film does a superb job of blending something that could be considered boring with comedic moments. A favorite detail of the film is when Phil decides to learn piano so he goes to the same instructor every day, but towards the end of the film, it looks like he hid that secret from everyone. 

‘Groundhog Day’ set up the success for the rest of the list and without it, they wouldn’t have been possible. 

‘Groundhog Day’ can be rented through Amazon Prime

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‘Palm Springs’ (2020)

The most recent use and in my opinion one of the best uses of the trope was 2020’s ‘Palm Springs’. This romantic comedy is centered around a wedding day that is repeated over and over again for not one, but two main characters. The first one being Nyles played by Andy Samberg who is the veteran of experiencing the repeated day and then the maid of honor Sarah played by Cristin Millioti is sucked into it accidentally as well. This comedy pushes the boundaries of the trope by the science of trying to get out of it. Rather than taking the more figurative approach of learning about yourself (which of course happens anyway), there is more of a fight to try to break the sequence of events. 

Why I believe it to be a more successful use of the trope because it has a mix of the actual storyline being intriguing and the different layers of what a wedding day means to someone. Seeing the happiest day of someone’s life be repeated over and over again, but also not go to plan on some of the nights is refreshing and exciting. Samberg and Millioti have such a natural chemistry between them making the audience more attached to the two. It is definitely an underrated film of 2020 that deserves the highest praise for a revamped structure.

‘Palm Springs’ is available for streaming on Hulu.

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‘Happy Death Day’ & ‘Happy Death Day 2’ (2017 & 2019)

This two for one pick are an obvious choice because of their genre… horror. Hollywood is known for pumping out the same types of themes over and over again, but putting little twists here and there to make it feel new. The ‘Happy Death Day’ films are a fresh new take on the ‘Groundhog Day’ trope. Tree, played by Jessica Rothe, is reliving the day that she was murdered. Quite the opposite of ‘Palm Springs’ take, but Tree must figure out who the killer is and the reason for the murder so she has a chance to break out of the cycle alive. The sequel ‘Happy Death Day 2’ again centers around Tree as she discovered she is in a parallel universe where everyone seems to be a different version than themselves. She must again run from the killer and repeatedly die to figure out who is messing with time. 

Using this trope in the horror genre is a thrilling new take and a great opportunity to play with death. Like the ‘Final Destination series death finds a way and with the repeated time loop it always does. Though the second installment of the franchise doesn’t follow the rules as much as the first one, it still grants the exciting feeling of entrapment for the lead and the mystery of how to get out of this cycle.

‘Happy Death Day’ can be rented on Amazon Prime.

‘Happy Death Day 2’ can also be rented on Amazon Prime.

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‘50 First Dates’ (2004)

Going back to the ever-so-popular romantic comedies, ‘50 First Dates’ has an impeccable take on the trope. Starring the legendary Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, this film is one of the most popular of their many films. Though this film is not the exact structure of ‘Groundhog Day’ is it is for Barrymore’s character, Lucy. She has no short-term memory and can never remember the previous day. When Sandler’s character Henry meets her, he is a skilled- player who is known for seducing women but finds his hardest game with Lucy. He must try day after day to make her fall in love with him even though she never remembers who he is the next time she sees him. 

The internal use of the structure that is limited to one character is unique to the trope, but still makes it effective and belongs in the category. A heartful comedy that people can’t help, but watch on repeat.

‘50 First Dates’ can be rented on Amazon Prime.

By Jack Colin

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