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The Ice Storm

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Ice Storm

Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen
Director: Ang Lee
Rated: R
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: September 1997
Genre: Drama


*Also starring: Courtney Peldon, Henry Czerny, Adam Hann-Byrd, David Krumholtz, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Jamey Sheridan, Elijah Wood, Sigourney Weaver



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewvideo review
3.  Edward Johnson-Ott read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
4.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
5.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

It's frequently the small details that make the difference between a good picture and an outstanding one. Director Ang Lee (SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, and THE WEDDING BANQUET) is a master at the minutia of story telling.

In THE ICE STORM, set in an unhappy period of the early 1970s when the sexual revolution and the Watergate scandal were both in full swing, Lee uses close-ups of a metaphor-laden metal ice tray to tell the story. The adults in the film, and to lesser extent the teenagers, are as cold to each other as ice, and each will be broken in many ways before their melancholy story ends.

"Ben, you're boring me," complains Sigourney Weaver as a harsh looking Janey Carver to a tired and befuddled Kevin Kline as her lover and neighbor Ben Hood. "I have a husband. I don't have a need for another one." You see, he has committed the cardinal sin of talking seriously to her after their regularly scheduled tryst. She is there for sex and is put off by the effrontery of his speaking to her. James Schamus's script based on the novel by Rick Moody is dead-on in this scene as in all the others.

Carol Oditz's costumes and Michael Bigger's make-up gives the early 70s an accurate but exceedingly ugly look. Never have long lapels and gaudy leisure suits looked worse. Only Joan Allen, who steals the show as Ben's repressed wife Elena, manages to look good in her hairspray-hardened coiffure. A fragile statuette who looks ever in danger of cracking, she plays a wife who tries to ignore her husband's infidelities even as she yearns for some of her own. Like all of the other characters, she is massively unhappy with her life. Kleptomania turns out to be her method for sexual arousal.

Mark Friedberg's sets for the film are set in a depressingly gray and leafless New Canaan, Conn. The days are short and cold as a bleak winter approaches. Again, metaphors abound.

Along with the adults' preoccupation with sex, the kids are beginning to experiment. And I do mean experiment. Christina Ricci, as Ben's 14-year-old daughter Wendy, offers Janey's son Mikey, played wild-eyed by Elijah Wood, a sexual encounter, but with a condition. She must be permitted to wear her large Nixon mask during it. When her father finds them in Janey's basement, he is almost rendered speechless. Afterall, he just left Janey's bed upstairs.

In another scene, Wendy takes Mikey's younger brother Sandy, played with devilish innocence by Adam Hann-Byrd, into the bathroom for the classic game of you-show-me-yours-and-I'll-show-you-mine. When Janey finds them, she hypocritically delivers an overly long and obtuse lecture to Wendy that includes the admonition, "A person's body is his temple." (Yes, "his" since the 1970s predate the political correctness era.)

All of the performances are tour de force, but incredibly depressing. The show offers only a few possibly redemptive scenes.

The film's long ending sequence makes the picture. As its title suggests, it includes an ice storm. During the storm the adults attend a "California key party." Like a grown-up version of spin-the-bottle, each woman gets to go home with the man whose car keys she fishes out of a big bowl. Never has sex seemed more dismal that in this sad game of spouse-swapping. Even when the men get the worse looking ones at the party, they awkwardly seem to jump for joy. But THE ICE STORM is never a comedy, not even a black comedy. It is a deadly serious and morose morality tale and the slowest and the darkest movie yet from Ang Lee. It is a devastating film that will almost certainly leave you emotionally drained.

THE ICE STORM runs 1:52. It is rated R for drugs, sex and mature themes. The film would be fine for older and mature teenagers. I strongly recommend the picture to you and give it *** 1/2.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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