The Ice Storm
Rating -

Satire (US); 1998; Rated R; 108 Minutes

Drama (US); 1997; Rated R; 113 Minutes

Kevin Kline: Ben Hood
Joan Allen: Elena Hood
Tobey Maguire: Paul Hood
Christina Ricci: Wendy Hood
Jamey Sheridan: Jim Carver
Sigourney Weaver: Janey Carver
Elijah Wood: Mikey Carver
Adam Hann-Byrd: Sandy Carver

Produced by Alysse Bezahler, Anthony Bregman, Teo Hope, Ang Lee and James Schamus; Directed by Ang Lee; Screenwritten by James Schamus

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Marilyn Manson constructs his music on real issues. His most recent album is a portrait on his belief that we, as the human race, numb ourselves from being the humans that we should be. It also chronicles his transformation following the physical pain he provoked on himself with "Antichrist Superstar," and, as he says, 'represents the final stage of what was set forth on that record.'

I bring this observation of Manson up because I was running it through my mind as I saw "The Ice Storm" the other day. Ang Lee, the movie's director, interprets human life in and outside of family bonds to be as cold as ice, and characters of this vision cause physical and emotional pain to each other, all while numbing themselves from the true humanity they have in them. The movie is a sad, thought-provoking one, where the viewer sits and wonders if the sadness gets any stronger.

"The Ice Storm" is one of the best films I've seen. It is a picture that relates its scenario to the characters, the themes to the atmosphere, and the vision to the style. When watching it, we observe the relations between nature and humanity, as they both wreak havoc in a small little town in the dead of winter.

This is an observation that can be followed thanks to the efforts of narration by a character named Paul Hood, played by Tobey Maguire, who relates the coldness of his family to that of winter storm's straight from the pages of a "Fantastic Four" comic book. He explains in the first scenes, while trapped on a train in the middle of a frigid ice storm, that we as families can't help but hurt one another, simply because that's what we are made of. We are not perfect. We are as cold as the ice of a winter storm; or at least that's what the script tells us.

In this case, we speak of two families: the Hood family, which includes Paul, the narrator, and the other is the Carver family, which is the source of most of the pain and aggression inflicted upon the characters of the picture. Actually, they are the main inflictors--I don't want to give the impression that the members of Paul's family don't do the same.

Each of these characters has something uniquely disturbing about them, and the most fascinatingly disturbing of these characters is Wendy Hood, played by Christina Ricci, a teenager who is extremely curious about her sexuality. Her neighbors have two teenage boys about her age, and when she's over at their house, sexual experiences arise between them which all are interrupted eventually by the parents of either family.

The adults of both families are also troubled human beings. Kevin Kline plays Ben Hood, a man who sleeps with the neighbor's wife, Janey Carver, played by a well-focused Sigourney Weaver. Her character is another one of the movie's strong points, not only because she's beautiful and vibrant, but also because she knows exactly what to say at exactly what time. In one scene, when she's in bed with Ben, and he's talking about his job, she interrupts with this line: "Ben, I already have a husband. I feel no need for another, so quit boring me."

The script knows the lines well. It has great knowledge of when to say them and what form to say them in. Most movies, if you think about it, are often concentrated on plot and characters rather than the actual dialogue, but here, the words are an equally important part of the movie. Some phrases are vital to our understanding of the situations, while others are simply amusing (and sometimes true) to the nature of one's character.

There is, for instance, a moment near the beginning when Ricci's character, Wendy, is talking to her brother on the phone. Being a blunt woman, she brings up Richard Nixon, remarking that (after some presidential speech) "He needs to be shot."

It's nearly impossible to read the minds of characters in movies, but the ones in "The Ice Storm" make it perfectly clear to the audience of how they feel, both through dialogue and action. Of course, there are more, complicated situations at stake, but I feel no need to reveal all of them, because those who haven't seen it and plan on doing so will be quite surprised of how this script treats its characters.

And let me tell you, I felt sorry for all of them. Their problems, emotions, and painful experiences are all shared with us right on screen, just as a gigantic ice storm hits the town. And with this ice storm serving as the metaphorical backdrop of the material, the movie manages to hit the right notes at the right time.

It's the type of experience where you might learn from your mistakes before you even make them.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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