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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 8 November 2011
This exquisite, bleakly raw, terribly sad film was directed in 1997 by the great Ang Lee, after Sense And Sensibility, and just before the brilliant Ride With The Devil. And what a cast it has, some of whom were fairly obscure or unknown back then. Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood and Katie Holmes are all seen at their best in early roles, and there is also a telling cameo by Allison Janney - The West Wing`s immortal CJ Cregg.
It`s the early 70s, Nixon is still president by the skin of his lying teeth, and the well-heeled residents of suburban Connecticut are sleepwalking into affairs with their neighbours` wives and husbands, attending what would now be called swingers` parties, and virtually ignoring their dislocated, empty-eyed offspring. Welcome to the blank new `lost generation` of the soured American Dream.
Kevin Kline, all coiffed hair and blandly neat clothes, is married to flint-eyed Joan Allen (excellent as always) though their marriage is crawling half-heartedly onto the rocks. Kline drifts into a loveless affair with their friend Sigourney Weaver - a bravely cynical, passive portrayal of a bored femme fatale by this fine actress - while the various children of both couples have begun to experiment, innocently yet with a cool lack of emotion for the most part, with their physical stirrings.
Slowly but very surely (with Ang Lee one is invariably in safe cinematic hands) events spiral out of everyone`s control, leading to an almost casually depicted tragedy. The families are numbly united, no doubt a little wiser, and life, one is left to assume, goes on. It is a poignant, diffident denouement to what seems in hindsight something of a parable, though it never moralises, which is part of its strength and poetic truth. Life is hanging like one of the winter icicles, by a cold, transient thread, the future happiness of all concerned tentative at best.
The way the emotional and sexual lives of the parents are juxtaposed with those of the children is done with subtlety and tact, while sparing use is made of Mychael Danna`s suitably lean musical soundtrack. Certain images linger: the night train carrying home Tobey Maguire at a standstill in a winter `wonderland`, more like a ghost train from a Stephen King story (we`re in the right part of the world, too); Sigourney Weaver, after one too many meaningless adulteries, curled foetus-like half-in & half-out of her bed; city rich-kid Katie Holmes` drugged eyes before she passes out, the viewer fearful of how she will cope with whatever lies ahead; and the ominously long whip Weaver shoves at her son to `play with`, that is echoed much later, and much more ominously, in a jolting `whip` of electric wires...
This has been described as a comedy-drama, and in a way it is, but the comedy is mostly dark and chill, the drama close to Greek tragedy.
A very fine film, worth seeing more than once.
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on 19 December 2003
This is a detailed trip through middle-class confusion in 1970s Connecticut, beautifully adapted from Rick Moody's highly-regarded novel.
Kevin Kline is Ben Hood, the father who is trying but doesn't have a clue, like all around him in an America that has broken morally and spiritually adrift. His carefully coiffed wife Elena (Allen) looks like a Stepford robot but is getting itchy for some liberated self-realisation. His neighbour Janey (Weaver) is the swinger next door who makes her waterbed freely available to him while denying him any warmth that may lurk beneath her cold, brittle indifference.
Simultaneously, Ben and Elena's teenaged son (Tobey Maguire), en route from prep school for the Thanksgiving holiday, is having a Holden Caulfield weekend and pubescent daughter (Ricci) is playing "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" with the anxious, oddball boys next door (Elijah Wood and Adam Hann-Byrd).
Lee's vision of an emotionally drained suburban America hopelessly mired in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal and ineffectually coping with wife-swapping and barbiturates, confirms the 70s as the most excruciating style decade of the century, the totally tragic duds emblematic of the mass inability to get a grip.
The film scores insights both in sharply observed social satire and poignantly universal details of sexual longing in the interwoven tales of parental mid-life crises and teen angst. But Lee's most impressive achievement is his almost imperceptible shift from sex farce to achingly funny youth drama to profound tragedy and despair as the approaching winter freeze of the title mirrors the family's emotional chill and the devastation it brings. The dazzling ensemble perfectly captures every nuance in one of the finest acting showcases you could hope for. Well worth seeing.
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on 15 March 2000
This is one of the few films that not only successfully translates from a novel but, in my opinion, far outstrips the book. Where Rick Moody's original text relies too heavily on references to the 70's and the social peculiarities of the time, Ang Lee simply uses the era as a backdrop for what is essentially a story about the way we ignore our families and the pain this causes them. In what is a very strong ensemble piece, it is the female characters that stand out, with Joan Allen in particular giving an incredibly moving portrait of the cuckolded wife who has been turning a blind eye to her husband's affairs. The greatest achievement of the film is demonstrating the effect of parents bad choices on their developing children without any of the usual cliched teenage rebellion scenes that hollywood produces. This film doesn't have a happy ending but provides a reassuringly accurate portrayal of the family for anyone who didn't have the perfect childhood.
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VINE VOICEon 4 June 2002
I watched The Ice Storm after watching American Beauty since it was recommended to me as a similar film. And it is - in a sense - since it's about family relationships. But it's even better than American Beauty. This movie is simply wonderful from start to finish. The plot is serious but interesting and the acting and music are... well... fantastic. It's one of the best films ever made. I've seen it a dozen times (DVD version) and it's still wonderful. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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I, personally, was not alive in 1973. But the immensely underrated Ang Lee gives a glimpse into the 1970s suburbia when society went through a dramatic shift. A good thing? Don't be so sure. Lee strips away the illusions to reveal the loneliness and coldness in the wake of the sexual revolution.

The Carvers and the Hoods live next door to each other in an affluent suburban neighborhood. On the surface, all is well. But self-absorbed Ben Hood (Kevin Kline) is having an affair with the icy Janie Carver (Sigourney Weaver). Similarly, his precocious daughter Wendy (Christina Ricci) is "experimenting" with Janey's sons, the spacey Mikey (Elijah Wood). To make things worse, Ben's wife Elena (Joan Allen) is experiencing a bit of a crisis herself -- she suspects her husband is cheating on her, and she longs for the freedom and lack of care she had before her marriage.

After Ben finds Wendy and Mikey in a compromising position with a Nixon mask, and Elena clues in about Janey, the parents venture to what turns out to be a wife-swapping key party (the women take men's car keys out of a bowl and go home with covers New Canaan, their relationships will reach boiling point... and a tragedy will unfold.

I don't know how common these attitudes were in the 1970s, but undoubtedly they were a lot more common than people would like to remember. Such things as key parties seem almost alien now. Tobey Maguire's Paul Hood serves a vital function in this movie -- he's very normal, not into any sort of transitional weirdness (except pot smoking) and so can serve as an alter ego for the viewers.

Lee did a good job not just with the exquisite direction and the camerawork. He also doesn't overemphasize the sudden shifts in what was allowed and what wasn't -- in one scene, the adults calmly discuss watching "Deep Throat." As they speak, there's the nervous awareness that it was unacceptable for upper-middle-class suburbanite not long ago. They have drugs, free love, self-seeking... and they don't have the slightest clue what to do with it.

Lee overdoes it a little with the ice metaphors. The dead leaves and trees were a lot better. But he does do an expert job showing why loveless sex and distant families will only leave a person lonely. The families here talk a lot, but they don't speak. Even a simple question like "How's school?" or "What are you doing?" is enough to weird out the kids -- that's how far they are from their parents. Wood's only statement in the "making of" sums this up: "The parenting is just... it's all WHACKED!"

He tempers all this heavy stuff with humor, such as Janey coldly telling Ben that she doesn't need "another husband" prattling golf stories at her, or Mikey's comical confusion when Wendy offers to get intimate while wearing a Nixon mask. There are a lot of "seventies" things sprinkled through the movie, from the makeup to the toe socks (toe socks?), the TV shows, the hair, the clothes (Weaver's zippered jumpsuit, for example). But Lee doesn't really smack you in the face with it.

Kevin Kline is as good a serious actor as he is a comic one. When someone leers that he wishes people had brought their young daughters to the key party, Kline's expression is worth a thousand words. Weaver is always outstanding as a very cold woman who still has some affection for her kids; Allen is excellent as a woman whose feelings are bubbling past her icy exterior. Ricci mixes sophistication and vulnerability as the Nixon-obsessed Wendy. And Wood gives off a sort of ethereal feel as the spacey but sweet Mikey, a boy obsessed by molecules.

This is far from a feel-good movie, but it gives some undefined views into human nature, what is good for us and what isn't. Ang Lee took what could have been a disaster, and made it as cold and beautiful as an ice storm.
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on 29 July 2015
It's always good to check out Director's work that you have found interesting before. And Ang Lee is no exception. His work seems to vary so much.I have loved all that I have watched although what (money?) inspired hin to direct THE INCREDIBLE HULK! Still, this is an excellent film...
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on 8 October 2011
top 50 films of all times material. period drama perfectly filmed and acted. DVD transfer is rubbish though and this needs a decent blu-ray release. The film is incredible but there is no way to enjoy it properly so far outside of the cinema.
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on 12 December 2014
The picture quality is watchable;very soft focus or poor transfer.
Sound is crisp with very clear dialogue.
Set in the swinging seventies.The film focus is on the younger characters.Wonder years meets Swingtown.Like these and you might want to see this gem.
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on 30 May 2006
It's ironic that the warmest and most humane of movie directors, Ang Lee ("Sense and Sensibility," "Brokeback Mountain") is the director of the icy-cold (weather, of course and tone) and surgically precise "The Ice Storm."

Lee's innate humanity makes itself known in his handling of the characters here: he never judges, he never points a finger...he shows, he doesn't tell. It is a slippery slope though as the Rick Moody source material veers towards condemnation of this particularly randy and supposedly "swinging" group of mid 1970's couples and their children.

The wasp adults: a cold, cold, man-eating Sigourney Weaver as Janey Carver, a trying to be hip but lacking the wherewithal to pull it off, Joan Allen as Elena Hood and a "not-there" Jamey Sheridan and pseudo-hip but really just horny Kevin Kline as their respective husbands Jim Carver and Ben Hood...form the odd quartet of 30 somethings, probably used-to-be 60's hippies either in deed but most likely just in thought. Both couples have two children: also in various stages of rebellion and angst.

The signature scene in "The Ice Storm" is the Key Party: a ritual party in which the husbands put their keys in a bowl and at the party's close, the women pick a set of keys thereby picking the man with whom they will have sex that night.

Lee's camera swoops and swirls around all the guests as we catch snippets of conversations: affairs are concluded, gossip is exchanged, discrete and not so discrete flirting happens, much liquor is consumed and gallons of white lipstick is applied...Lee let's us in on all of it. And he does it without rancor, without an agenda and always with his patented warmth and love.

Arguably the best film of 1997 ("The Sweet Hereafter" is it's equal that year also), "The Ice Storm" is ultimately a tragedy of Classical Greek proportions: the world of this film is icy cold as are many of its inhabitants but Ang Lee's blazing humanity warms and soothes revealing an open wound of despair, indecision and loneliness.
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It's hard to believe that this film was made in 1997. Every aspect of it, from the haircuts, dress styles, architecture, and furnishings to the attitudes and angst exhibited by the characters reeks of the 1970s. Directed by Ang Lee, the film captures the free-wheeling, introspective, and self-indulgent era in which parents absolve themselves of responsibility for guiding their children while they themselves explore free love and key parties. No one is happy. Everyone is trying to "connect."
Ben Hood (Kevin Kline) and Elena (Joan Allen), parents of Paul (Tobey Maguire) and Wendy (Christina Ricci) have lost touch with their "inner selves." Ben is trying to find it with Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver). Elena, disillusioned, looks toward Rev. Philip Edwards (Michael Cumpsty) for revelation. Their children explore sexuality at young ages, with Wendy being very bold in asking for what she wants from younger kids who have not even entered puberty. Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver), the mother of Mikey and Sandy, is the unfettered wife of Jim (Jamie Sheridan), who never seems to be part of her life. All experiment with sex, drugs, and alcohol, kids and adults alike, as all also try to find meaning in life. When a dangerous ice storm hits on the night of a major party for the adults (while the kids have their own plans), lives are permanently changed.
Set in New Canaan, CT, the film offers a close-up view of suburbanites and their children as they try to negotiate their way through the minefields of self-indulgence in their search for identity and "meaning." Everyone takes chances--shoplifting, taking drugs, sexual experimenting, daring of convention--and no one expects to be caught. The cinematography highlights the attitudes of the times and the relationships of the characters. Like the setting, it reflects the 1970s, the camera angles and lighting emphasizing the shallowness of the times. Developed from the novel by Rick Moody, this film showcases the era, from Watergate to Vietnam and the alienation of the suburban gentry.
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