The Ice Storm

Smalltown, Connecticut. Early seventies. As families prepare for Thanksgiving, President Nixon is mumbling on TV about the Watergate. Kevin Kline plays a father of two whose marriage is far from perfection. He seems to have lost touch with his wife (Joan Allen), a melancholy woman who ain’t much satisfied with her life. She sure don’t approve of her husband having an affair with the bitchy neighbor (Sigourney Weaver), a selfish and bitter housewife who’s bored of her successful yet unexciting man. And then there’s the children who, even though they have problems of their own, seem to be more thoughtful than their folks. Christica Ricci plays a cynical teenage girl who doesn’t have much faith left in the way things go. The sexual revolution might affect mostly grown-ups, but she’s also in on it. She experiments with the brothers next door. There’s Elijah Wood, a spaced out young man who seems to be living in another world, and then there’s his younger brother, a disaffected kid with a tendency to blow stuff up. Ricci also has a brother (played by Tobey Maguire), who is into drugs and comic books. During the week-end, adults like kids will realize that the ice storm raging outside ain’t their biggest problem…

Damn, is this film great! First, it’s extremely well written. The subject matter might not be stunning, but sometimes, reality can be as interesting as fantasy. The characters are all rich and believable, and every scene is well crafted. The film has a very nice tone. It’s not all feel good nor is it a corny melodrama. It’s like the portrait of a time and place. Different themes are smartly explored, and it’s always gripping. But what gives the film most of its force is Ang Lee’s brilliant direction. Every shot is superb. Lee really has an awesome visual style. The pacing is slow, but it’s better that way, because this is the kind of film where the important thing is the characters. There’s an interesting use of ice in its different forms in the film. I think it symbolizes the way these people “freeze” their emotions and rely instead on sex and drugs. The score’s also great.

The performances are flawless. Kevin Kline is wonderful as the inadequate father. He’s sometimes funny, but there’s something sad and pathetic about his character. Joan Allen and Sigourney Weaver also deliver great performances as women. But you know what, the adults are totally eclipsed by the young stars. Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood are breath-taking. Ricci does her cynicism thing once again, which was enjoyable in some of her previous films, but here, the dialogue is much better written, so her talent is better showcased. Wood, though, never was so good. But the most riveting performance is from Tobey Maguire in his breakthrough role. I love his character, Paul. Every guy who was an outsider as a teenager will identify to him. I love the way Paul finds philosophy in Fantastic Four comic books and his pathetic attempts to seduce a classmate, played by Katie Holmes. It kinda reminded me of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” by moments. For all these reasons, The “Ice Storm” is definitively a film to be seen.