The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)

08Jul10

Kevin Kline (Ben Hood), Joan Allen (Elena Hood), Tobey Maguire (Paul Hood), Christina Ricci (Wendy Hood), Sigourney Weaver (Janey Carver), Elijah Wood (Mikey Carver), Katie Holmes (Libbets Casey). Screenplay by James Schamus. Directed by Ang Lee. Rating: 15. Running time: 112 minutes.

A rather bizarre one, this. Set in the suburbs of Connecticut and honing in on two dysfunctional families, it feels a bit like an adaptation of a poor man’s Revolutionary Road: interested in why life gets dull and what causes marriages to fail, yet nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing and somewhat boringly ten times more interested in sex. The weather implied by the title is about as cold as the characters are depressing, showing us exactly what parent-child relationships shouldn’t look like (clue: not involving communication), and telling us absolutely nothing new about adultery. I learnt what a key party was, and for some reason I watched adolescents fumble around with one another at great length. The film seems to consider itself funny at times, too, when a girl has a sexual encounter whilst wearing a Richard Nixon mask, and when asked to play her part in the school orchestra to her parents, she just pumps out the same note monotonously on her trombone. Eventually, though, the film gets all caught up in its own emotionality when a child dies towards the end. This feels harsh treatment for a very well respected film, especially given I hardly sat begging for the ending credits to come up ASAP. The point is though that I only continued watching The Ice Storm out of bafflement as to what it was all about. Apologies if I missed the metaphor, but a film this cryptic and unpleasing to the eye ultimately feels purposeless.

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