russian doll

Why Doesn’t Russian Doll Reference Groundhog Day?

Photo: Netflix, Everett Collection

Here’s a thought experiment: What would you do if you got caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day over and over again in order to be taught some mysterious cosmic lesson? How would you convince your friends that your rash behavior and telekinetic powers aren’t merely the result of say, a very intense acid trip, or a psychotic break, or your involvement in a very elaborate Nathan for You prank? What would be the simplest way to convey the situation you were in? Could it be, perhaps, making reference to an extremely well-known film?

I, for one, know exactly what I’d do. I’d grab my most trusting friend, pull them into a quiet corner, and whisper in my most serious voice: PLEASE HELP ME [name of trusting friend], I’M BEING GROUNDHOG DAY-ED.

Of course, they are unlikely to believe me right off the bat, but that’s easily fixed: I’ll just tell them the exact moment someone is about to drop a plate or which member of the Trump administration is about to be fired on Twitter with zero warning. How would I know these things if I wasn’t being Groundhog Day-ed, hmmm? Of course, there’s nothing my supportive friend could do about my predicament in the long run, but at least I’d have an effective shorthand with which to get them to understand what I’m going through, if only for one day.

Russian Doll, the new Netflix comedy about a woman named Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) who gets … you guessed it … caught in a time loop, is different from Groundhog Day in several ways. Where Bill Murray’s Phil Collins is woken up every morning at 6 a.m. to Sonny and Cher singing “I’ve Got You Babe,” Nadia is trapped repeating the night she dies, beginning again and again with her staring in a bathroom mirror to the tune of Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up,” a song which is stuck on its own kind of time loop in my mind, probably until the day I myself die.

Nadia dies over and over, no matter how she tries to avoid it. She gets hit by a car, she falls down the stairs, she has an allergic reaction to bees, she gets burned alive in a gas explosion, etc. After each death, she’s transported back to that bathroom at her friend’s house in the middle of her 36th birthday party.

After the first couple of episodes, the show takes on some supernatural elements that aren’t standard Groundhog Day mythology. But reader, I’m sorry to report, at no point whatsoever does Nadia do the sensible thing of simply pulling one of her friends aside and saying “Hey, just so you know, the movie Groundhog Day is real, and it’s happening to me RIGHT NOW!” I mean, come on. This is supposed to be the 2019 East Village! She’s in a hip crowd of 30-somethings! Half of these people took or are currently taking classes at UCB! Literally everyone she knows has seen Groundhog Day! Yet any time anyone presses Nadia to explain what she’s going through, this common pop-culture reference escapes her. Instead she says:

– “[It’s like] things already happened and I’m doing them again. I think I’m dead.”

– “The universe is trying to fuck with me.”

– “I don’t know how to convey to you, to her, to anyone that really cares for me that I am experiencing something that’s truly terrifying, that I’m scared, that I’m questioning my own sanity and that I may be dead.”

- “Thursday, what a concept! It’s never going to be Thursday again! It’s just always going to be this party and we’re just gonna keep coming back … nothing is ever gonna change.”

– “Is this some kind of sick fucking fantasy? This is like The Game. I’m Michael Douglas.”

(This last one comes the closest to achieving what I’m suggesting here, but a time loop is not really the plot of The Game).

Anyway, aside from this complaint, the show is very good and you should watch it. (Maybe also rewatch Groundhog Day, a very good movie.) And dear friends, here is my plea, should this metaphysical nightmare ever happens to me, please believe me when I clearly and concisely tell you, as I will, that I am being Groundhog Day-ed, or even Russian Doll-ed.

 Just Tell People That You’re Being Groundhog Day-ed