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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