The Ice Storm (15)

Directed by Ang Lee
Starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Jamey Sheridan, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Adam Hann-Byrd

Ang Lee was an unlikely choice to direct Emma Thompson's adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, but the Taiwanese director's detachment from Austen-lore turned out to be a blessing. Here, it is the swinging 1970s, the decade that taste forgot, that receives the attention. Adapted from the book by Rick Moody, this is an examination of two priviledged Connecticut families. The parents tale sees icy cold Weaver and indecisive Kline embroiled in a rather passionless affair. Joan Allen is Kline's wife, seemingly happy and contented, but on the verge of a breakdown underneath the surface. Weaver's vague and rather strange husband Jamey Sheridan is seemngly oblivious to everything including his wife's infidelities and the deeply strange behaviour of his two deeply wierd sons. (Wood and Hann-Byrd). Kline and Allen's daughter Christina Ricci is exploring her sexuality with both the strange brothers, while her older brother Maguire is also looking for action. Events culminate in a swinging party for the grown ups, and a most unusal ice storm that has tragic consequences.
This film has been praised in some quarters, and is usually the sort of film I like; a bit talkie, but intriguing. However, I found it cold and souless. I didn't give a damn about any of the characters, even the usually likable Kline and the talented Ricci. As an examination of a particular social group at a specific time in recent history, a sort of snapshot of life, it is intriguing, but oddly depressing. These people have no happiness in life. They move from one empty desire to another, with very little genuine feeling on show. The couples are distant and remote from each other, the children don't really get on or connect in any way with their parents- although Ricci and Kline show the strongest and most conventional parent-child relationship. In many ways, this is a truer picture than the many happy families and easy relationships on screen I guess. It can be tough growing up or living as a family or making a marriage work. It always looks so easy in the movies. However, as entertainment, I found this film bleak and a little pretentious. Nothing really happens until the last five minutes, apart from a lot of people behaving badly. It is the rather over serious, intense approach that tipped it for me. Sharply observed social satire combined with passage of rites youth drama? Or overblown, over-hyped chilly melodrama? 6/10.

February 1998

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