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I went to see this film with one of my friends, in a cinema I had never been
to before. It was one of those rare and delightful experiences where you are
the only people in the theatre. No one around to distract you. No kids
munching on crisps, or couples quietly muttering sweet nothings, or idiots
trying to tell the characters what to do. It was great.
The film was just brilliant. It really nearly broke my heart. Every performance is perfect. The direction by Ang Lee is deliberate and painful as he slices into you with the lives of those he makes you watch. It looks amazing, in a beautifully bleak way. It is also one the most compelling and painful movies that I have ever come across. The family life portrayed is messed up and all the relationships that are displayed are disfunctional on some level or other. But still I was forced to care for them - all of them. Such is the brilliance of the acting and the script writing.
I own this film, but I can't watch it alot. Once a year is just enough. It's to traumatic and beautiful to watch more than that.
Set in upscale, suburban New Canaan, Connecticut in 1973, The Ice Storm
(based on a novel by Rick Moody) is a scathing social criticism of the
values and ideals of upper-class American society during that time
period. With the background for the movie being the Nixon Watergate
scandal, the corruption is portrayed as extending all the way into the
American Home through a short glimpse into the lives of two families:
The Hoods and the Carvers.
Both families have two children (Carvers: two sons, Hoods: one son, one daughter), and appear perfectly normal and supportive at first glance. However, through a series of common experiences, and through the way the families struggle to communicate both within and with one another, it becomes clear there are deeply rooted problems. Director Lee uses the children to exemplify the failures of the parents, and their mistakes reflect heavily and harshly on the adults in their lives. The adults also make their own mistakes, and these are depicted as far worse - for as adults, they should know better. Their struggles in dealing with their children are at times almost comical, and show their lack of proper parenting skills. As a criticism, this structure is flawless, comprehensive, and unrelenting throughout. Except for a few fleeting scenes, the irresponsibility of the adults dominates the screen.
Of course, all these events are building up to a climax of epic proportions. The saying, "a stitch in time saves nine," comes to mind when discussing this movie. Had any of the adults taken the proper steps of good parenting anywhere along the way, the events that unfold would not have occurred. Like the failed parenting of the adults, however, it's too little, too late. Bad parenting, selfishness, lavishness, sexual promiscuity, greed, lack of communication, and foolishness lead these adults to make mistakes within their lives, the lives of their children, and the lives of their friends. And come the closing credits of this incredibly well directed, well acted film, they are the ones left to pick up the pieces.
The difference between adolescence and adulthood can be defined in terms of
years or age, but when it comes right down to it, the only real difference
is in the experiences the added years provide. As we mature, we are at some
point confronted with the realization-- some sooner, some later-- that age
and experience do not necessarily equate to satisfaction and personal
identity in our lives, the two things we are all, though perhaps
subconsciously, striving to attain. But it's an elusive butterfly we're
chasing; and at a certain age, the lack of fulfillment in one's life may be
dismissed out-of-hand by some as a midlife crisis in a feeble attempt to
justify certain actions or attitudes. Attaching such a label to it,
however, is merely simplifying a state of being that seems to be perpetually
misunderstood, and we resort to using psychological ploys on ourselves in
order to rationalize away behavior that is often unacceptable in the cold
light of reason and morality. This, of course, is not a unique situation,
but an inevitable step one takes upon reaching an age at which the awareness
of mortality begins to set in, which is something we all have to deal with
in our own way, in our own time. And it's an issue that lies allegorically
at the heart of director Ang Lee's pensive, insightful drama, `The Ice
Storm,' in which we discover that-- more often than not-- the adult we
become is nothing more than an extension of the adolescent; we may shed the
skin of youth, but the awkward confusion and uncertainty remains, albeit
manifested in different ways, to which for awhile we may respond in
opposition even to our own conscience, creating a double standard in our
lives which only serves to exacerbate the confusion and unhappiness, leaving
us alone to face the cold and frozen landscapes of our own
Working from an insightful and intelligent screenplay by James Schamus (who also wrote Lee's `Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and `Eat Drink Man Woman,' among others), Lee has crafted and delivered a lyrical and poetic-- though somewhat dark-- film that tells the story of two neighboring families living in Connecticut in the early 70s: Ben and Elena Hood (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) and their children, Paul (Tobey Maguire) and Wendy (Christina Ricci); and Jim and Janey Carver (Jamey Sheridan and Sigourney Weaver) and their children, Mikey (Elijah Wood) and Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd). And it's a story to which many will be able to relate on a very personal, individual level, as it reflects an issue common to us all-- that of trying to make a tangible connection with someone or something in our life that we can hold on to and take comfort in. Ben and Elena have grown apart; she has distanced herself emotionally and sexually from Ben, and unfulfilled, she longs again for the freedom of her spent youth, while Ben seeks solace in an emotionally vapid but physically satisfying relationship with another woman. Jim, who spends much of his time on the road, has become completely disconnected from his entire family; his children are apathetic to his very presence, and Janey exists in a constant state of promiscuous numbness, yet cold and indifferent to her own husband.
The Hood and Carver children, meanwhile, are suffering the pains of adolescence and trying to figure out the world in which they live, exploring their feelings with and for one another and attempting to understand the whys and wherefores of it all. And to whom can they turn for guidance in an era that's giving them Nixon and Watergate, new age spiritualism and self-absorbed parents who teach one thing and do another?
The story unfolds through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Paul, whose meditations on the literal and figurative ice storm that descends upon the two families over a long Thanksgiving weekend forms the narrative of the film. And it's through Paul's observations that Lee so subtly and effectively presents his metaphor, in which he captures the beauty, as well as the ugliness, that inexplicably coexists within and which surrounds the turbulence and turmoil of the Hood's and Carver's world, which is ultimately visited by tragedy as their drama proceeds to it's inevitable climax. It's sensitive material that will undoubtedly touch a nerve with many in the audience, and Lee takes great care to present it accordingly, with a studied finesse that makes it an emotionally involving and thoroughly engrossing drama.
Lee also knows how to get the best out of his actors, and there are a number of outstanding and memorable performances in this film, beginning with that of Kevin Kline. Kline does comedy well, but he does drama even better, as he proves here with his portrayal of Ben. The final scene of the film, in fact, belongs to Kline, as it is here that we discover the true nature of the man he is in his heart of hearts. It's a superb piece of acting, and one of the real strengths of the film.
Joan Allen also turns in a strong performance through which she reveals the insufferable inner conflict that so affects Elena's life, and especially her relationship with Ben. And it's in Allen's character, more than any of the others, that we see how fine the line is between the adult and the adolescent. It is not unusual to find a bit of the mother in the daughter; but Allen shows us through Elena just how much of the daughter is actually in the mother, which underscores one of the basic tenets of the film. It's a performance that should've earned Allen an Oscar nomination at the very least.
Also turning in performances that demand special attention are Maguire, Ricci, Wood and especially Jamey Sheridan, whose portrayal of Jim is one of his best-- it's believable, and totally honest. Penetrating and incisive, `The Ice Storm' is remarkably poignant and absorbing; without question, it's one of Lee's finest films. 10/10.
I am deeply touched. I can not believe it took me 7 years to get to see this
movie. It goes straight into my top ten.
The movie is based on Rick Moody's 1994 novel about the life of two suburban families in New Canaan, Connecticut during the time of the Watergate scandal: A time of sexual liberation and of disintegration of existing social norms and of the nuclear family. The characters may stand as symbols of the kind of people that are created out of a society with decreasing social norms. They are ordinary people who live in material welfare, bored, unhappy, confused, scared of conflicts, and constantly seeking something else than they already have.
Instead of being examples to their children, the parents are constantly trying to run away from their own emotional confusion for instance by seeking casual sex and thereby hurting each other. In the meantime the children are left to their own upbringing, watching bad TV shows, emptying their parents' drinks, blowing up toys on the balcony, shoplifting, experimenting with sex and drugs. The communication between parents and children is terrible, or should I say non-existing. They all live in their separate worlds, all the time more disconnected, until a tragedy caused by a natural disaster finally calls them back to life and, hopefully, makes them look beyond themselves and see how valuable and fragile life is. May this provoke back the belief in what the family as a unit can do for each other if they stand together?
The movie is both uncomfortable and at the same time enormously satisfying to watch perhaps because the theme is presented in such a human and recognizable manner. The dialogue is great and there are even very funny scenes at times. These people seem so real and so fragile, like you and me. It is as if we can see right through their souls and their pain.
The cast is brilliant (except for that irritating Katie Holmes with her cheap Hollywood teenage series look). I have never seen a movie plenty of child actors acted out as professionally and convincing as this one. Christina Ricci is the best and Elijah Wood is also excellent (much more enjoyable than in LOTR), making me wish they were young again so they could have more roles in movies like this.
The atmosphere caused by the weather gives a kind of somber mood stressed by the dimmed colors and the mystical music score.
I was astonished to find out how many bad reviews in this site for "Ice Storm" here. I voted 9 out of 10 without hesitating. I've seen this movie twice, and the 2nd time was even more disturbing in a remarkable sense, which compelled me into a deep thinking mode. Phillip, (on the message board), you're so right! `Ice Storm' was indeed a gem that entitles equally what "American Beauty" has earned. Both movies were focusing on the American mid-class's love lives, their middle-aged marriage crisis, and teenagers beguiled by sex. `Ice storm" was filmed in a musically melancholic tune than `American Beauty'. It's about life, brutally honest, and objective. It's about the rotten love lives of average American couples, inwardly, those who would dare to break the rules, for exchanging a moment of stealing pleasure, such as Sigourney Weaver; Kevin Kline, who has surrendered to sexual seduction; Jane Ellen, Kevin Kline's wife, frustrated by the dysfunctional marriage, yet tuning away from sexual liberation. Sadly, the victims of typical contemporary Hollywoodia pace has found `Ice Storm' a `slow and dull' movie that makes them yawning. Why not simply obtain satisfactions over weeping for an affected Hollywood's love tale `Titanic'. Other noteworthy, is the music scores of `Ice Storm' is depressing, enchanting, very beautiful.
'The Ice Storm' is an incredibly bleak and dark film set in the 70s
about two connected families during the holiday break of Thanksgiving.
The first family consists of Ben (Kevin Kline) and Elena (Joan Allen),
and their two kids -- 16-year-old Paul (Tobey Maguire) just home from
boarding school, and 14-year-old Wendy (Christina Ricci) a wannabe
anti-war/anti-Nixon elitist who is coming to terms with her own
sexuality. The second family consists of Janey (Sigourney Weaver) whom
Ben is having an affair with, her husband Jim (Jamey Sheridan), and
their two boys -- the neurotic intro-vert Mikey (Elijah Wood) and his
younger shy pyro-maniac brother Sandy (AdamN Hann Byrd). The film takes
place during Thanksgiving day and the day after in the lives of these
people -- including Ben and Elena's marriage being put to the test at a
swinger's party with Janey and Jim, Paul's love conquest in New York
City with a girl from boarding school named Libbets (Katie Holmes), and
Wendy's sexual misadventures with Mikey and Sandy both.
'The Ice Storm' is an incredibly powerful and relevant ensemble piece about the complexity of family and relationships both sexual and non-sexual. Ang Lee once again proves he is a director of great skill and exquisite understanding of human emotions, and James Schamus provides a harrowing and painfully realistic screenplay. Kevin Kline delivers yet another near-flawless dramatic performance, while Sigourney Weaver is great in her interesting yet limited role. The children of the ensemble cast (Maguire, Byrd, Wood, Ricci, Holmes, Krumholtz) are all excellent, especially Christina Ricci who owns her role. However, the real scene-stealer in my eyes is the marvelous Joan Allen who plays her role with such intensity and elegance that I'm shocked she didn't receive a Best Actress Oscar Nomination.
In conclusion, 'The Ice Storm' is a powerful little movie that's interesting yet not exciting. It isn't groundbreaking by any standards, but it's incredibly well-made. 'The Ice Storm' was totally ignored at the '98 Oscar Ceremony, but that comes to no enormous surprise. It was competing in the same year 'L.A. Confidential', 'Boogie Nights', 'Amistad', 'The Sweet Hereafter', 'As Good as It Gets' and the dreadfully overrated 'Titanic' were. A small little character study like 'The Ice Storm' didn't stand a chance. If you can appreciate a movie like this, I highly recommend this oldie I just got around to seeing. Grade: A-
"Ice Storm" not only describes the weather in the Connecticut countryside but is also a metaphor for the pall which hangs over a pallid and dysfunctional middle-class suburban family of four in the 1970s. Sporting a stellar cast with Ang Lee at the helm, this well crafted, sensitive, artful production takes the audience into four lives outwardly living the "American Dream" while inwardly existing in a state of empty unfulfillment and quiet desperation. The tedious and laconic nature of the film may lose the less patient audience while those with a taste for psychodrama should enjoy it.
The summary statement I write I mean as a compliment. In short, this
film will keep you up thinking about the characters, the whole swarm of
tragedy sewn into these characters, as it is a true look at American
familial dysfunction. It's also the Chinese-directed cousin of American
Beauty- in some ways just as compelling (if maybe a little more heavy
on the metaphors)- and by the end of it, however down and drained the
film made me feel, I knew I'd seen my favorite Ang Lee film thus far.
He takes the subject matter- the script by James Schamus, and the
nuanced performances- and makes it so that we feel for these people,
however trapped into their upper-middle class walks of life. The ice
theme does work for a good lot of the film, and even when it gets
hammered down to the line, I was still moved by how these families
intertwined, the bleakness but also the little bits of light coming
In fact, the film shares a good deal with American Beauty- two families, both fairly screwed up, with infidelity, drugs, procrastination, young lust, and a certain pining for the old days going steadily down the tubes. One family are the Hooods (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Christina Ricci and Tobey MaGuire); the other are the Carvers (Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, Henry Czerny, and Adam Hann-Byrd). Either side has their share of dilemmas, psychological cramps, and just total aimlessness. The performances from all are unique and quiet, desperate, and at least a few (in tune with the 'ice' theme), in particular Weaver, Wood and Allen, are numbed. Basically, there isn't as much story as there is attention to the fates and parallels of the characters.
Among the lot though, Kline has some of his best work to date, with his controlling demeanor masking something very insecure; Hann-Byrd and Wood are totally complimentary, so to speak, in that they work well at being brothers of the same weird seed; Allen, not much more to say that hasn't been said by others; and even smaller roles filled by Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz are worth the time. There stories all lead up to the big chunk of the story (ala the 'day you die' stuff in American Beauty), and at times it's painful, cringe-inducing, darkly amusing, and at the end hitting notes that had me eyes go wide. And the ending, when it comes, is sentimental, but never unrealistic. This is the kind of tone that Lee would also use for Brokeback Mountain, but here it contains even more depth and intrigue into the dysfunction, ironically in only the span of a few days vs. the span of twenty years in Brokeback.
You may, whether you like the film or not, will want to talk about it once it is over. It of course can be argued, and I would argue it, that the 'ice' motif is pushed to as far as it can go, and then some (then again it IS called the Ice Storm). But in contrast, another minor theme is handled superbly, involving the Fantastic Four comic book that Maguire's character gives some narration about. By looking through an abstract of a comic book, there's some extra meaning that can be put into the film, the power that can be taken away from superheroes as well as the enclosed New Canaan citizens. Along with some great 70's era period use- the Nixon/Watergate stuff adding another layer to the frustration (leading up to a truly disturbing moment involving a Nixon mask)- including music, creates a very impressive atmosphere. Maybe I'll check out the film again, when it's not past midnight, though even after hours the film packs a small wallop. 9.5/10
THE ICE STORM (1997) ****
Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, and Katie Holmes Director: Ang Lee 113 minutes Rated R (for strong sexual content, and for drug use & language)
By Blake French:
Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" is such a provocative and unsettling experience that it made Gene Siskel's top movie of 1997. Since then, Siskel has recently passed away. But Being an avid film reviewer and buff, I thought that it would be appropriate for me to screen "The Ice Storm" for a second time, this time in full awareness of Siskel's thoughts on the film. After careful inspection, I think that I agree with my favorite movie critic's opinion, and feel obligated to post a review explaining why.
Watching "The Ice Storm" is a unique occurrence. Movie's don't get this powerful every time one visits a local multiplex. The story is basically a series of sins and involvement's that dig the characters deeper and deeper into an emotional crater.
The time period is about thirty to forty years ago. Kevin Kline and Joan Allen are Ben and Elena Hood. They have a son whose 16, Paul, and a sexually confused 14 year old daughter named Wendy. This is not a happy family and the film never pretends otherwise.
Ben is having an adulterous affair with his neighbor's wife, Janey Carver. Her husband, Jim, is pretty much unsuspecting, but Ben's wife is dubious of her mysteriously acting spouse. The Carvers also have teenage children named Mikey and Sandy. Mickey is ready to explore a sexual underworld with Wendy, and she is prepared to experiment with whoever comes down her path first.
Elena is caught stealing from a local party store one day and that triggers an effect that causes her to react openly to her husband about his involvement's with Janey Carver. When Ben and Elena visit a wife swapping party where the guests put their keys in a dish to see who an individual will sleep with, things become even more adulterous with the Carvers.
The film is propelled by unique, one of a kind performances by all the actors in the cast. Sigourney Weaver, receiving a best supporting actress nomination for her performance, is superb, in a slutty, whorish kind of a way. Joan Allen is also perfection delivering a sense of egresses and desire without ever speaking that much. Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, and Adam Hann-Byrd all act well as the teens. Basically all the one screen appeal of "The Ice Storm" is top class.
But there is something more than just the on screen appeal with this movie. Something that allows the audience to experience a feeling of confusion along with the characters. We can become so involved in the story because all the story consists of is a pile of heavy sins. We feel the character's needs. Relate to the issues. Things happen that struck me so profoundly that I find myself listing the film on my list of top 100 movies of all time. In the last scene of "The Ice Storm" a key character brakes down and cries like a baby, with his family next to his side. We look back at all the wrongdoing he has done, at all the sins he has committed, and all the reasons he has to cry, and we fell his pain--and somewhere, deep down, we try to forgive him.
Ang Lee is a perfectionist, and it shows here in this excellent film about relationships between friends, lovers and families. The attention to detail is second to none, this film is wonderfully crafted, the landscape is filled in every scene with the beauty of nature or the ugliness of the humans that inhabit it. The dysfunctional family is not only observed, it is clinically dissected and placed under a microscope. So many divergent paths these characters take, so many of them the wrong paths, it is hard to look away, because morbid curiosity grips all of us at times. Sigourney Weaver and Joan Allen are both outstanding here and well supported by the rest of this talented cast. Highly recommended.
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