The Ice Storm (1997) Directed by Ang Lee
Ice Storm is a well-made and well-acted piece of cinema. It relates to a distinctly American tradition of writing and depiction of the ordinary life in suburbs. The film finds its place stylishly and retains its multi-faceted content, which can often be difficult in movie adaptations of novels. Finally, Ang Lee is an excellent director so full of compassion always, never stuck on a story he has already told.
I know I should love this movie, but some distance remains. I cannot feel passionately about anything here. I have a vague memory of seeing this film in the late 1990s and it having an impact on the teenage-me.
Last January on a ferry from Germany to Denmark I found myself telling a bunch of cowboys about 'key parties'. The men wondered where I got my knowledge from and I failed to inform them: from Ice Storm. I simply smiled with vagueness (truthfully, I did not remember the movie then).
Life consists of fragments, events, faiths without linear coherence. Everything's up for interpretation. If that is the message, I would rather be reading Richard Yates (see for example Young Hearts Crying or Disturbing the Peace).
I Just read David Thomson's analysis of the Alien movies The Alien Quartet. Thomson gamely suggests that Sigourney Weaver (forever Ripley?) is a frustrated sexual beast who was never handed the sexier roles given to other women mainly because she is so tall (and probably a little too smart). His re-imagining of Alien 4 does get one hot under the collar! Well, in The Ice Storm, Weaver gets her sexy role and runs with it. As a matter of fact, sex is what everyone wants or is getting.
Based on Rick Moody's Yatesian novel, Ang Lee's film concerns two middle class suburban families in the early 1970's who find themselves in a state of flux. The children are discovering sex while the adults are experimenting with it. Images of Ice abound in various forms, from the effects of the Ice Storm on a tragic night to ice blocks being emptied into alcoholic shots. A fine performance by Weaver is almost matched by great turns from a surprising Kevin Kline and the eternally underrated Joan Allen. But The Ice Storm boasts an amazing young cast who have all gone on in some way to establishing themselves. A pre-Spidey Toby Maguire, Katie Holmes, Elijah Wood and the already child star before she became the cooler adult Christina Ricci.
Ang Lee is surely the most adaptable and eclectic director working today. From the period literary adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, the Western Ride With The Devil, fairytale Martial Arts with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the super hero comic of The Hulk and the celebrated gay romance of Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's variety of subject sets high standards. You could argue that the The Ice Storm is one of the key 90's American films. It up there with the likes of Magnolia & Short Cuts, yet it doesn't have the same standing. Maybe the themes of this film strike a little closer to home for some, it's a cold picture like the title suggests. It offers little comfort, just some sobering perspective on stale relationships and curious children. A major work.