Wichita, Kansas, Christmas Eve. Charlie (John Cusack) and Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) have just ripped off their boss. “Are we really doing this?” Charlie says after the deed is done. This is more than just stealing some pens and a few post-it notes, however, they’ve stolen 2,147,000 dollars from a known mob boss. A mob boss, who will send people to kill them when he finds out. But it’s the holidays, so no worries. They’re pretty sure that Bill Guerrard is at home sipping eggnog, and by the time he finds out what’s happened they will be long gone. If not for a ice storm.
Charlie can’t find out because he’s asked to help his friend, and ex’s current husband, get home. Pete is in a surly state of drunkenness. He makes Charlie have a drink with him before they go and makes it known to everyone in the bar that Charlie is a “mob lawyer”. The ride home takes the pair back to Pete’s in-laws (also Charlie’s), and then full circle back to the bar they started at. There will be some vomit, some crotch punting and another run-in with Officer Tyler. We are also introduced to Charlie's philosophy on life. After recounting a tale of his father and his twin brother’s deaths he bestows upon Pete his wisdom, ‘It is futile to regret. You do one thing, or the other...same results.”
Charlie drops off Pete's and picks up his ex wife’s Mercedes, headed for the Sweet Cage to give Renata her present. She in turn has a message for Charlie from Vic to meet him at the Velvet Touch. She also can’t help but catch on that Charlie is hiding something, which probably involves money.
At the Velvet Touch Charlie doesn’t find Vic. He does find a finger in a clamp though. Charlie’s night just got more interesting. Thinking it might be Vic’s finger he heads for his house.
Charlie is trapped, on Christmas Eve no less. Not trapped by a wife that’s cheating on him, or kids that don’t love him anymore. No, he is literally confined to one location by the weather. Like that of the snowstorm that wasn’t supposed to happen in Groundhog Day, Charlie can’t leave until the next day. And much like Groundhog Day what happens during that one day has a profound affect on the character. Repetition can either give your life meaning or slowing take it away. Charlie is finding that the latter is true. He just wants to leave Wichita with his half of the money, but is forced to live out one more daily routine. Something Charlie has a little trouble doing. Then again, it is God’s birthday, so what’s the harm in acting a little abnormal? Within this routine lies Charlie’s real trap, choice. He might not be the best at making choices. About the only good choice he makes is borrowing his ex wife’s Mercedes. Whereas Phil Connors is given endless repetition of choice without any consequence, Charlie is faced with the fact that as dawn approaches his choices are beginning to catch up with him. From the moment he walks into the Sweet Cage, turns down a beer and tells Reneta he can help her out with her problem he is questioned about his motives. This doesn’t seem to phase him. Only with the arrival of Roy does Charlie’s nervous tension returns. Which brings us to one of the themes of both Groundhog Day and Ice Harvest, regret. While Phil regrets some of the actions he takes, he knows that there is no tomorrow,and that none of this will matter when the clock strikes 6 a.m. Charlie, on the other hand, feels the twinge of regret. Yet as he explains to his friend Pete “it is futile to regret, you do one thing, or the other. Same result.” This world view would explain Charlie’s ability to go forward with actions that may in fact kill him. I mean, he’s going to die eventually anyway.
Spattered throughout the film in red sharpie is the phrase “As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls.” We see it on the bathroom wall, a payphone,and eventually the back of a camper. It’s revealed that this was written by Charlie. But why does he write this all over town, other than a homage to a Pat Metheny and Lyle Mars album with a very similar title? I think this phrase is central to Charlie’s world view regarding choice and regret. That we are all doomed to the same inevitable fate. And that no matter what you do it won’t make a difference. Vic has no problem making choices. He’s chosen the right partner, a man with no backbone. The only thing he needs to do is get out of town, and make sure that his wife won’t talk. Then get rid of his partner in a nice double cross. But Vic didn’t count on Roy planting the seeds of doubt in Charlie’s mind, which seal his fate.
In the end, both protagonists from Groundhog Day and The Ice Harvest reach their goals. Phil finds love and gets out of his never ending cycle, while Charlie finds money and removes himself from the his daily routine. To the victor goes the spoils, pancakes.
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