The Ice Storm

It’s winter in Texas. My apartment is cold. My tea is tepid the instant I put it down on a coaster, and my cat must be touching my person at every moment. What better film to watch than…

The Ice Storm (1997)
Starring Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by Ang Lee
How I saw it: Streamed via Netflix
First time seeing it, No previous knowledge of the film

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The credits show over Native Americanesque flute music (scored by Mychael Danna).The screen is dark and we slowly, painfully slowly pan across something that at first looks, to me, like a coffin, then maybe a fallen tree. At last, train tracks, covered in ice. I just love icicles. Would it be strange to call them cute? Whoa, Christina Ricci is in this? Where has she been? Incidentally, if you haven’t see Snowpiercer, you should. Fantastic film by Bong Joon Ho. Also deals with a frozen train. Title appears

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Tobey McGuire is reading a Fantastic Four comic. Wrong superheros, Spiderman. Monologue equivocating Fantastic Four with family, how family is what you must emerge from and return to. So, there’s our theme everyone. Got it? Like a thesis statement. Nice.

McGuire: “It was a typical predicament for the Fantastic Four, because they weren’t like other superheroes. They were more like a family. And the more power they had, the more harm they could do to each other without even knowing it. That was the meaning of the Fantastic Four: that a family is like your own personal anti-matter. Your family is the void you emerge from, and the place you return to when you die. And that’s the paradox – the closer you’re drawn back in, the deeper into the void you go.”

With a quick trip to IMDB, I figure out the family units.
Hood family: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey McGuire, and Cristina Ricci.
Carter family: Jamey Sheridan, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, and Adam Hann-Byrd

And now here’s Katie Holmes.Note to Spiderman, flirting via Dostoevsky isn’t the wisest plan.
OMG Mr. Universe!!! You’re alive. Can’t stop the signal. *fistbump*

I’m kinda in love with the Hood family’s house. So 70’s and so many patterns going on. On the walls. On the furniture. Like a Magic Eye book vomited.

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So family and neighbors are under one roof, which I’m sure will lead to all kind of craziness. They’re discussing key parties. Unsure how that greatly differs from swinging? More random less choice involved. And Kevin Kline is shut down by his wife. Ouch. So their marriage is clearly happy.

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New scene. Watching the train come into the station. Lemmings fill the train, go about their day-to-day. Kevin Kline wistfully looks out the window not reading his newspaper and can’t focus at work. You’re right, Kevin. Something has to change.

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We’re panning across a table covered with books: Doris Lessing – The Summer Before Dark, Sarte – Being and Nothingness, Camus – Resistance, Rebellion and Death etc. Oh my goodness. Reverend has flowing hippie hair. Whooooa.

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Ok, so we segue between scenes kinda like a flipbook. Lee cuts back and forth frequently between ongoing storylines so we get the sense of all that is going on at the same time. Ricci and friends having some girl talk. Wood and boys sucking at flag football. Ricci and Wood have an eye contact moment… so… Ricci takes off on a biking quest.

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Mom looks to be crushing on the Rev. Ricci shoplifts from a pharmacy. Now she’s making out with Wood in an empty pool. He put his gum behind his ear for safekeeping. Who does that?

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Kline and Weaver are having an affair. She has to remind him that their relationship is strictly sexual, as they are both married, so small talk is not required. Laughing because the woman is telling the man to talk less. So, you know, subverting the expected gender norms. Resisting the urge to make an Alien facehugger allusion.

Weaver: “Ben, you’re boring me. I have a husband. I don’t have a need for another one.”

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Ricci plays the trombone. Yeeeeees. That’s awesome. Because you know I’m all about that brass, bout that brass… Mom tries to shoplift lipsticks and gloriously fails. No shades of vicious trollop for you.

Frodo’s younger brother is playing with firecrackers.Weaver instructs him to play with a bullwhip instead. Because, parenting!

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Ricci and Firecracker have the beginning of a coming-of-age moment in the bathroom. She shows a little skin and when it’s his turn, he loses it. This kid has serious issues. Please do not buy him a pet. He is a psychopath. Or maybe he’s just rebelling because she actually said “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Kline and wife make out in the kitchen. Then Kline picks up McGuire. Thanksgiving break. Decided this is a good time to discuss the “facts of life”… Oh dear. Excellent father/son moment talking about “self abuse”.

Kline: “On the self-abuse front – and this is important – I don’t think it’s advisable to do it in the shower. It wastes water and electricity and because we all expect you to be doing it there in any case. And, not on… under the linen… Well… Anyway, if you’re worried about anything at all, just feel free to ask and we’ll look it up.”

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The family is all together and they have their Thanksgiving meal. When Ricci is asked to say grace she waxes poetic on white privilege and the injustices done to the Native American. Such a good little liberal. All together now “Amen.”

Ricci: “Dear Lord, thank you for this Thanksgiving holiday. And for all the material possessions we have and enjoy. And for letting us white people kill all the Indians and steal their tribal lands. And stuff ourselves like pigs, even though children in Asia are being napalmed.”

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Ricci puts on a Nixon mask and asks to touch Wood’s manhood. Frodo remember what Gandalf told you…Keep it secret. Keep it safe.

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Kline walks in as they start messing around. Breaks things up and and he and Ricci walk home through the snow. He asks if her toes are cold. When she nods, he picks her up and carries her home. Into the woods. Into the woods.

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Kline and wife accidentally end up at a key party with the horny teacher from 10 Things I Hate About You (you know, and other things too).

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They’re both justifying the desire to stay. Dramatic pause…They stay. The plot thickens. And the Rev. appears and says a truly icky line “Sometimes the Shepherd needs the company of the sheep.” Can we not? He left. All rejected like.

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Ricci, rocking the toe socks. Decides to go explore the ice storm with Mikey.

McGuire, Ricci, and Mr. Universe are having a tiny little party: beer and pills. Mr Universe passes out. Killed me Mal. Killed me with a sword. McGuire starts talking about her aura and she says she thinks of him like a brother. Ouch. Then she passes out and face-plants in his crouch. McGuire spends the next several minutes in an ethical quandry.

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Ricci circles back to hang with Firecracker. Mikey is alone at the empty pool jumping on the diving board covered in ice. Why are you doing that? Stop it. No really, stop it.

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Firecracker shows off his talking soldier toy showing Ricci a hangman’s knot and says, ” Let’s hang him.” What is going on with this kid?

Adults are drawing out keys for their festivities. Ladies, choose wisely.

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Ricci and Firecracker take a few shots of vodka, strip under the covers, and he passes out. Which is kinda of precious and innocent, except she is snuggling with a future serial killer.

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McGuire makes it to the train, just in time, having wisely chosen to leave his friends to choke on their own vomit and flee for public transportation powered by electricity…during an ice storm.

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Why do I feel like this movie is going to end with everyone dead?

Kline’s Wife and neighbor go off the road in his car, but don’t die.  Weaver makes it home and looks sad…. uh oh are Ricci and son still asleep in that bed? Kline is passed out in the bathroom of the key party house.

Mikey is running through the ice covered landscapes like a crazy person. He’s feeling liberated or something. Are you kidding me?! He sits on the edge of a guard rail because he’s out of breath. He looks absentmindedly at a fallen streetlight, he cable snaps, sparks light up the sky, touch the guardrail and sizzle. He falls to the ground, slides a few feet and the scene cuts. What in the actual hell?

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McGuire is reading his comic on the train, the power goes out, the train comes to a stop. Dude, I think your train just fried your neighbor.

Neighbor and wife make it home. She sees Ricci and tells her to “Get dressed.” Kline picks up his keys, drives himself towards home and comes across the prone form of Mikey in the road. He picks him up and carries him home through the woods. Into the woods. Into the woods. Everyone is understandably emotional when Kline appears and deposits the boy into the waiting arms of his father. Families returns to their corners and disentangle themselves from their plot lines.

The Hood family goes to meet McGuire at the train station. There’s a poignant moment. Everyone gets in the car, Kline starts crying, looks back at his son, wife puts a hand on his shoulder, the camera settles once more on McGuire’s face, and the screen cuts to black.

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Well, that was rather fascinating. Still a little concerned about Firecracker. I need him to grow up into a person who is less interested in always blowing things up.

Overall, highly recommended. Some nice wistful 90’s throwbacks. Before hobbits, and Marvel, and a girl named Joey met Dawson and Pacey. *tear*

Thumbs up, pinkies out.

– SH

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One thought on “The Ice Storm

  1. I love this film. I’ve seen it enough times to lose count. It captures the 70s brilliantly. Every aspect is perfect from directing, performances, casting, music, cinematography. Thus, it made my “perfect zero” list long ago. In my movie rating algorithm, I increment up from zero according to any moment any frame that I deem not perfect or that has some flaw or has something I would have done differently. This film has no increments. Scores “perfect zero.”

    Like

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