The secret to true insight is to repeat a task so much that it loses all meaning, becoming nothing more than a pile of disparate building blocks each held in hand for but a moment. Then repeat it a few more times and let the meaning rebuild itself before you. Deconstituted. Reconstituted. Deeper understanding.
Or that's the plan.
I watched Groundhog Day 12 times in 24 hours. A local theater puts it on, allowing all comers to trade $25 and 24 hours for 24 free movie tickets. It's a decent way to spend a Sunday, considering the varied religious overtones you can draw from the film. But whatever the metaphysical truth you pull out of Phil Connors' circles within circles the question of why remains to be answered. Who's behind it all? Let's look at the possibilities in order of plausibility.
7. The Groundhog.
This is the only theory presented in the film, albeit from an extremely depressed Phil. Despite the clear resurrection motifs of Punxsutawney Phil emerging from the tree trunk to preach the coming renewal of a new spring, there is little strong evidence presented that this woodchuck could be the Woodchrist. Obviously killing him changes nothing.
Possibly the only person in the film morally worse off than Phil, Larry works as a nega-muse: the being in charge of pushing Phil toward a better self by serving as an example of what he could become if he doesn't.
The only clear example in the film that the world is not just -- certainly Phil being rewarded with the girl for becoming a better person certainly suggests it is -- is the homeless old man has no lines and still manages to be the pathos that pushes Phil to betterment. While Phil doesn't start helping him until he's already decided to actively become more good, the man's inevitable death doesn't stop Phil from continuing to care for him. If Phil's journey is one toward empathy, then Pop is the vehicle driving that path.
A fellow attendee presents this theory in her own blog post about the event (which is elsewise worth the read):
"Could it be that Rita cursed him to living in a time loop until he could become a good person and meet as many criteria on her 16-point Perfect Guy list as possible? Her having supernatural abilities would at least explain why she is constantly rude to Phil and is never seen interacting with anyone but him and Larry and yet he describes her as being the nicest person he’s ever met who is kind to strangers and children."
It also explains why she's just so disappointed when she catches Phil cheating to make her think he's getting better.
3. Mrs. Lancaster.
What's with her implausible deniability over knowing what deja vu is? Obfuscating stupidity so that Phil never suspects that she is the real power here. She does seem to supernaturally know what's happened when the lights go out after Phil's second suicide attempt. There may be more to that than meets the eye.
2. The Piano Teacher
On the final day Phil obviously knows how to play the piano, he's even leading the band. And yet, in an otherwise easily ignored line -- the more you think about it the less sense it seemingly makes -- she tells Rita that Phil is her student. But perhaps not her piano student? Perhaps the woman who points the way to Gobbler's Knob on Phil's second Groundhog's Day is leading him on a deeper journey.
1. Ned Ryerson
Examine what changes on the last run through deep enough and there's only one logical conclusion. Ned Ryerson is -- or controls -- a trickster being (djinn, coyote, Loki, take your pick) and uses this power solely to further his insurance business. He traps Phil until Phil agrees to buy literally every insurance product Ned offers. Bing!