The Ice Storm (1997)
Starring: Kevin Cline (Life As A House; A Fish Called Wanda), Joan Allen (The Bourne Supremacy; Pleasantville)
Directed By: Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Bareback Mountin')
Overview: This is the story of a couple of dysfunctional families in 1973. Amidst sexual revolutions and questionable moralities, these middle-class suburbanite neighbors in Connecticut find their slippery lives cracking apart (Get it? Ice? Yeah, witty).
Acting: Other minor art-house soon-to-go-major indy-label names include Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes. It's insane. Off the top of my head, the only film with more names is Tim Robbin's The Player, but unfortunately that wouldn't count since all the stars were playing themselves as bit parts. Everyone I've mentioned has gone on to be amazing characters in other amazing films, and Ang has certainly proven his worth time and again.
Cinematography: The costumes and the look of the early 70s is present without being too loud, like one horrible movie I've seen recently. We have just enough of the feel of the era without being lambasted by it. Was there anything interesting besides seeing diving boards, trains and branches covered by a thick sheet of ice? Um, can't say there was, but I must say the wet look lipstick is pretty hot.
Script: Nothing jumped out at me at being particularly deep or poignant. I found that the script was more about the acting than the dialogue, a lot more to be said with action and eyebrow than with words. That makes a powerful film too. I liked that there wasn't constant explanation of desires, needs and resolutions, yet at the same time we stepped into these lives at a mid-point, at a limbo-like stage where nothing gets better because they're too busy ignoring the problems. It would have been nice to have more resolved, even if it wasn't all that realistic.
Plot: Young adolescents face the trials of coming of age while their parents are hip-deep in their own mid-life crises. The 'sins of the father' spill into the children while the era of free love and experimental drug use flourishes amidst a community of people starved for something new. It's a story that's worth telling, and might have been received better from an older demographic than mine.
Mood: The symbolism of ice throughout the film wasn't effortless, a lot of work went into it, but at the same time it really didn't seem to represent all that much to me. I guess ice cubes and booze are pretty clear signs of disaster, just as an actual dangerous storm is, sure, but was this more a Spielsbergian symbolism for the masses? Perhaps the barrage went too beyond the subtle but not enough into the bold to impress me. Enough of the ice; I'll add that this is pretty engrossing and the narrative comparing to the Fantastic Four was a really nice touch.
Overall Rating: 78% (Slick)
Aftertaste: This is one of those movies that I saw available ages ago, and the cover didn't impress me much. I added it to my list because it's in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, (75 down, hundreds to go) and besides that, the lady friend said it was super-heavy good. Did I think it was well made, yes, it's film with purpose, but I just didn't find it to be all that moving. You know this film would have made a really good couple of seasons as a series, if done right. Good luck letting Ang Lee make television.