You know how when you are outside of a relationship or a situation, and someone asks you advice(example: a friend’s romantic troubles) on that situation, you can see the whole situation with unusual clarity? Or is that just me? Director Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility) has that power with sociological situations. With S&S, it was pure British elite honkiness; with The Ice Storm, it’s early 1970’s New England cultural ripples, Americana like junior high bands blatting Oscar winning theme songs and levered ice trays. And he paints with genuine emotion like Jim Cameron paints with money. I mean, special effects.
I have read quite a few articles which holler about how this movie captures a snapshot of the coming of age of America, the sexual revolution, the disillusionment of everyone with Vietnam and not trusting the presidency, etc., but I really didn’t get as powerful a sense of that sitting in the theatre. In the dark I watched the pain of being a smart adolescent, the pain of unhappy people, of unaccepted children and the fear of trying to be cooler than you are. I was only three when the movie was set, and maybe lacking that direct experience prompted my response.
It is NOT a feel good movie, but it is a good movie. The only reason I don’t say Full Price Feature (and as I write this, I am reconsidering my rating) is because it didn’t HIT me, you know? It didn’t strike the chord in me that it might in my parents’ generation, so I hold back with the praise.
Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver are neighbors and lovers – her husband (Jamey Sheridan) is a forgettable guy, but we the audience know he will be a zillionaire and just hope he divorces her before that time. Joan Allen, as always cast as the cold wife, complements Kevin Kline in a way I never thought she could. Kline and Allen are the parents of Christina Ricci Tobey Maguire. Elijah Wood and Adam Hann-Byrd (Jumanji) are Weaver and Sheridan’s children. The kids are all great – smart and yet totally unsure what to do with the smarts they have – sexually aware but ignorant. Very cool performances, all of them. And they look like they could be related, too. Bonus.
The eponymous storm is really amazing – a very cool (sorry so technical!) moody setup and gorgeous shots by Frederick Elmes – you really feel the cold and the unwillingness to move, the weight of the ice on the branches layering on and on until they snap.
The screenplay is by James Schamus based on Rick Moody’s novel, and Schamus uses bits from the novel (which I have not read but I will) that drop off suddenly, like an interesting parallel between, of all things, The Fantastic Four, and families. The film draws me to the book to know more. Much happens in the 2 hr and some minutes film, but it’s still a thin slice of life, like a time capsule, but it’s very interesting, and hints of more. No doubt about it, it’s a total downer, but a thought provoking one, with plenty of humor and all that good stuff. Pay full price for the novel (I can only assume) and catch the matinee with plenty to munch on. But don’t wait for video – the dark and cold, blue ice storm shots would be lost in TV ratio even on DVD.
MPAA Rating R-sexuality, drug use, language.
Release date 11/25/97
Time in minutes 113
Director Fox Searchlight
Studio Ang Lee