The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)

The film features an ensemble cast of Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, and Sigourney Weaver. Set during Thanksgiving 1973, The Ice Storm is about two dysfunctional New Canaan, Connecticut families who are trying to deal with tumultuous political and social changes of the early 1970s, and their escapism through alcohol, adultery, and sexual experimentation.

Director Ang Lee has been a hit or miss director through the years. Leading his directorial car between commercial and auteurist ways he can’t seem to choose which one. With The Ice Storm he tries hard to make an American Beauty drama on the failings of the American nuclear family.

This all star cast is promising and the photography and mise en scène are elaborated and give to this film a particular atmosphere of constant imminent danger and menace to all the characters at every moment when they cross the boundaries of social moral. Playing on these themes, Lee’s film is a social study and a contemplation of the American society. It seems to scratch every generation but didn’t really dig deeper. It reads more like a novel than a complete film. Many holes in the story give to some characters too much of an unidimensional presence. The film closes and we can’t seem to really care for any of the people presented. It is more or less a series of unpleasant moments.

Finally, this better than average movie is like a Trojan horse in American theaters. Set during a Thanksgiving and displaying America’s inner destruction by his most important resource : family. It is quite understandable why The Ice Storm wasn’t that successful at the time it was released. It hurts many elements that are taboos in the American culture and it is a bleak portrait of a time that was dear to Americans of the 1990’s : the 1970’s.

I personally believe that Ang Lee directed a near masterpiece with his Brokeback Mountain and liked to some degree Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But there stops my real interest in his movies, I’m intrigued to watch his Life of Pi but I’m never really excited when a new film by hi mis released. As I watched The Ice Storm in the Christmas holidays during an actual snow storm, I told to myself that it was not the most enjoyable film one could watch on a holiday. It would have been better as a meal to re watch Sam Mendes’ American Beauty instead.

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