Movie Review: The Ice Storm

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Mikey Carver (Elijah Wood) bundles himself up in his warmest jacket and saunters out in the ice storm, drawn irresistibly, compelled beyond reason or rationality into this seemingly pristine setting of frozen trees, frozen streets and shimmering icicles, nature’s glass palace in Connecticut. This is the kind of day he relishes, a day when the “smell molecules” cannot be inhaled they are frozen in space. He slides on the roads, slips on icy planks and stares mesmerized at the frozen, swaying branches in this ice storm. In his final moments he is entranced by the fireworks from a broken overhead power cable as it swishes through the air creating an amazing display of fireworks.

Mikey is just one of the six teenagers trying to imprint something on the empty pages of their minds, they are grasping for straws in a world that their parents have given up trying to understand a very long time ago. They emulate the falsely animated antics of their parents who have been rendered mere facsimiles of the people they once were. Parents who have failed to equip their kids with any means of understanding what their gradually awakening senses perceive. The hollow, termite ridden, interiors of their psyches are so terrifying and so chilling that the audience is as mesmerized as Mikey Carver’s character was with the terrifying ice storm.

All characters here are encased in several layers of ice, they are beautiful, prosperous people with friends, neighbors, kids, and beautiful Thanksgiving Day spreads on their dining tables but they have long since lost touch with their pre-cryonic states.

Benjamin Hood (Kevin Kline) is found in bed with his enchanting neighbor Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver), who has lit the proverbial cigarette and wears a bored expression on her face as Ben gets conversational and tells her about his aversion to golf. She cuts him short saying he is boring her and that she already has a husband. So he cuts his monologue short pulls up his pants and heads home. The joylessness and the meaninglessness of the act prove to be no hindrance to the driving desire to repeat the same ordeal the next day and the next. “Key parties” where spouse swapping is the much-anticipated culmination of an evening are normal occurrences in the danse macabre of this prosperous neighborhood. To the characters in question there is something compelling about passionate mindlessness; a theme that runs through every scene of the movie. The children never talk to the parents; the parents don’t offer much more than four walls, a roof and sustenance to their kids. Jim Carver (Henry Czerny), for instance, arrives home one day and announces that he is home only to have Mikey ask if he was away. The disconnect, the cold, chills the viewer to the bone.

I do want to pick up the book since movies often gloss over the various layers of meaning that a book conveys, especially in the case of this directorial venture of Ang Lee. The director did a fine job, I felt, but critics have found the movie flat, monotonous and joyless.

Makes me wonder about the point of expecting the conveyance of joy in a subject that is essentially devoid of joy? If life is flat and monotonous in suburban Connecticut, or for that matter anywhere else in the world, where souls are encased in sheets of ice, then a director who is able to portray this as accurately as Ang Lee has, must receive accolades and not derision at his efforts to portray that which he set out to.

Saying more would give away the story, but I recommend seeing it or stopping the remote while channel surfing, if it happens to be playing. I have found some of my most absorbing and compelling movies this way.

1 Comment

  1. I have to agree with you wholeheartedly that this indeed a great little flick, and easily one of Ang Lee's best … It is certainly better than a similarly themed that got a lot more attention, American Beauty


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