The Ice Harvest

Cover Art and Menu: 7/10
This cover has no imagination, no flair, no nothing. The movie is so good, why did they have to go and make the DVD look like some standard blah boring flick? Wonders will never cease in the world of make believe.

The menu is horrible. I mean stanky horrible. As soon as you put the DVD in it starts to play scenes from the movie, and if you are like me, you will hate that they force you to watch anything that might give away some of the more interesting moments of the film. This package is basically a botch job. Compared to the seriously quality film tucked away inside, this box and DVD navigation simply sucks, and that’s a shame.

Features: 8/10

  • Director Commentary – Harold Ramis has done a few movies over the years, one of which inspired my wedding day. That’s right my lovely husband and I got married on Groundhog Day, partly because Valentine’s Day is too stupid, but mostly because we both loved the movie. Ramis has a certain look at the world that has a dark edge to it and it shows in every movie in one way or another. In Ice Harvest it started with a dark novel and he turned it into a very funny but bleak tale of betrayal and human flaws. As he talks about the movie on the commentary track you feel like he’s sitting with you telling you this stuff as a fan of the movie, not as the man who put it all together. He really seems to enjoy the story, the cast, and putting it all together. He reveals several of the CGI effects throughout the film, which are so surprising, it’s very intriguing how a drama/comedy could put so much modern technology to use. He’s a forward thinking director with a hint of old school love and appreciation of film making history. It’s a pleasure to listen to, so go for it. This movie is worth a second watch anyway.
  • Beneath The Harvest Featurette – This is a pretty short look at the making of the movie. I would liked to have seen more, but hey, it’s an “indie” movie according to Ramis, so I guess it’s not in the budget to give us several hours of explanation and mulling over such an interesting story.
  • Anatomy Of A Scene – This is a look at how they made a scene on a large frozen lake, that’s not actually a large frozen lake, of course. It’s very telling about how even the least obviously digitally enhancible (not a word) movie can have so much invested in today’s technology.
  • 2 Alternate Endings – Use your own judgment as to whether you prefer one ending or another. At least they give us two extras to choose from. I love that.
  • Outtake – 1 single “outtake” that’s not what we think of when we remember all the bloopers we have seen in our lives…it’s Billy Bob taking one more scoop from the Sling Blade bucket. Pretty cool.
  • Cracking The Story Featurette – This is a conversation with the author of the book, and the screen writers talking about how the book became a movie. They are very Hollywood in a semi-creepy way. It is interesting and if you are taken with writing screenplays in your spare time, it’s worth paying attention to.

The Movie: 9/10
I can’t give much away in terms of the story that makes up this great little film, but I will do my best to sing it’s praises regardless. The reason I won’t discuss the story specifically because I came into it knowing absolutely nothing about it and I love it that way.

What I will talk about will touch on the performances of the cast, and the characters they so brilliantly play.

From the beginning of the film we are introduced to Charlie (Cusack), a lawyer with a jaded and tired view of life. Cusack is often a tad over the top with the sullen brooding leading man, but this time around I think he’s got it exactly right. Charlie is the straight man in this almost farcical story. He goes through some shit this guy. He’s in the middle of a big plan to better his financial status in this world, he’s haunted by a past that includes an ugly divorce and a career of being the lawyer who works for a local mob type thug. He spends his time in strip bars and yuppie parties, neither of which suit him. He’s burnt out and might just have found a way to escape Wichata, KS. That is if he can make it out of the city by tomorrow.

That’s a cool thing about this story, it all takes place in one night. One very long night, but in less than 24 hours we get to follow Charlie and the others down some pretty dark paths. The one guy who seems to have a wee bit more sadistic freakishness in him is Vic (Thornton), and his darkness only creeps out one evil deed after another. He’s slick, he’s rich, he’s does something in the pornography business, it’s never really clear what exactly, but it ain’t wholesome. Somehow he and Charlie end up with each other carrying out this plan to remove themselves from what seems like a very unpleasant existence in Wichita.

On this rainy, freezing, Christmas Eve all kinds of hell is going to break loose for Charlie, and to add to the stress and confusion he is saddled with a friend, a drunk friend who happens to be the new husband of Charlie’s ex. Oliver Platt plays such a fantastic drunken jolly fellow it’s heartbreaking as his miserable life with the ice queen is revealed. He’s not a happy guy, just like Charlie. When we see his (previously Charlie’s) home, it’s not a home at all. It’s cold, even frigid and void of any comfort or warmth at all. He wants to escape his life too, but his way is to keep his sorrows drowned for the night to build up enough courage to deflower a very stuffy, uninviting Christmas Eve supper at his in-laws’ house with an entrance that I laugh at no matter how many times I see it. “Merry Fucking Christmas” he announces as he bounces into the dinning room which looks like a picture from a greetings card, boring, cold, contrived, and unwelcoming. He brings Charlie, an unwelcome guest in and then proceeds to insult his wretched mother-in-law, rip a leg off the turkey (quite happily), and then takes his opportunity to confront an equally uptight father-in-law. It’s my favorite scene in the movie and makes the drama of the rest of the story even more poignant because this is a tale of wanting to escape a life you don’t want to lead. Some characters are criminals, killers, thieves, and goodness knows what else so it’s easy to see why they want to ditch their pasts and move on. Platt’s character however, is simply stuck in a loveless marriage and a life that’s killing him slowing with unhappiness. Which is a life that’s still completely worthy of being left behind. I may not identify with the seedy character’s and their choices, but I do understand misery in a bad marriage so it brings an other wise more fantasy story down to earth where I get it, I sympathize with the idea of wanting so desperately to be someone else, somewhere else, that you are willing to do anything to get there.

The dialogue in this movie is sharp and often such an abbreviation of what we are used to it’s made me want to listen to every line from every character. Platt confesses to Cusack that in the last year of Cusack’s marriage to his ex-wife, Platt was screwing her, a lot. Charlie (Cusack) is so flat line at this point about life and doesn’t really seem to care, just says he’s curious who she’s fucking now….that’s what I like to hear from characters in movies, things I don’t expect, reactions that ring with so much more than what they say. It just shows that the novel they had to start with was rich with interesting characters who, on the screen, are complicated and intriguing. That’s what I love about this movie, the people and the choices they make. The story is really good, but it’s the hidden parts of the characters which are revealed one line at a time that really hooked me, and made me laugh my ass off (wishful thinking).

Value: 8/10
I really enjoyed this movie. I laughed about every 30 seconds. I highly recommend it to anyone. I want it on my shelf so I’m willing to pay the twenty bucks, but I would still like to see it for around thirteen….my husband always laughs at my attempts to bring prices down on everything in the world. It’s worth a try. 🙂

Overall Score 8/10