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The Ice Storm (1989)
Rated R

Starring: Kevin Kline, Elijah Wood, and Sigourney Weaver

Rating:
****
out of
*****

I really didn't know what to expect from The Ice Storm. What I got was a quirky, strange, and somehow satisfying look into the self-destruction of two families in 1973 Connecticut.

The Hoods are coming apart as the result of Ben Hood's (Kevin Kline) drinking and adultery. Elena Hood (Joan Allen) seeks solace in the simple adrenaline rushes that riding a bicycle and shoplifting can provide. Their daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), is becoming increasingly sexually active, no matter the possible consequences. Their son, Paul (Tobey Mcguire), who goes to a private high school, is scheming a way to get a date with a girl named Libbets Casey (Katie Holmes) before his best friend has sex with her.

The Carvers, who live next door to the Hoods, are also having trouble relating to one another. Jim Carver (Jamey Sheridan) is a detached father figure. When he returns from a trip, his oldest son, Mikey (Elijah Wood), asks, "You were gone?" Mikey is also detached, but is pursuing his sexual interests with Wendy Hood. Mikey's younger brother, Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd), idolizes Wendy and also likes to blow stuff up with M80's. Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver) seems to put up with all of it because she has to rationalize her affair with Ben Hood.

The film climaxes as a giant ice storm slowly freezes the neighborhood, trapping most of the major characters inside, forcing them to deal with the questions at hand and the results of their actions.

There's an atmosphere of gloom that seems to wash over this film. Although the film takes place around Thanksgiving, there is no sense of a holiday or anyone giving thanks for anything. In fact, as Wendy says grace at the dinner table, she says, "Thanks for letting us white people kill all the Indians." Everyone seems to be disgusted with what they have or, at least, unsatisfied.

But, yet, the movie is not depressing in the least. In fact, it's quite funny in places. Some of the casual observations about the 1970's are dead on. Having grown-up in the mid-1970's, many scenes brought back vivid memories of my own childhood.

The performances are all finely crafted. Kevin Kline, Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood's being the standouts. Sigourney Weaver's character, however, doesn't seem as defined as the rest. James Schamus' screenplay contains some great dialogue and Ang Lee's direction is subtle, but effective.

Although the characters all seemed unhappy in their roles in life, I quite enjoyed my role as a witness to it all. Highly recommended.

Trivia: Joan Allen can also be seen in Face/Off. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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