The Ice Storm (1997)

ice storm poster 1997 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great acting, great looking film, fun comic book connection

Lack of structured narrative might turn off some

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Ice Storm

Studio:  Fox Searchlight Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama/Seasonal

Release Date(s):  October 31, 1997

MPAA Rating:  R

ice storm thanksgiving speech christina ricci

Between this and Addams Family Values, Christina Ricci hates Thanksgiving

Paul Hood (Tobey Maguire) and his sister Wendy (Christina Ricci) think their parents Ben (Kevin Kline) and Elena (Joan Allen) are weird. Their lives in the WASPy exclusive town of New Canaan, Connecticut seem perfect on the outside, but inside things are falling apart. Their lives are intertwined with their neighbors the Carvers.  Ben is having an affair with Janey Carver (Sigourney Weaver) while Wendy finds herself torn between experimenting with the older Carver son Mikey (Elijah Wood) and his younger brother Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd). The holidays are coming and the town is hopping…with everyone hopping beds.  When an ice storm strikes, the effect could be beautiful but deadly.

Directed by Ang Lee, The Ice Storm is a family drama.  The movie adapts the 1994 novel by Rick Moody and was met with positive reviews but poor box-office returns.  Following Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility in 1995, the script won best screenplay at Cannes and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #426).

ice storm key party kevin kline sigourney weaver

Let’s get our swinging ’70s on!

I love The Ice Storm.  I read the novel and enjoyed it for all its pop references, but the movie while still being very retro tones it down a bit.  Still, even toned down, the film has this great throwback look and feel.  The high fashion of the Hoods, the Carvers, and their friends are fun to see if nothing else.  The movie just is perfect looking…bleak and dreary despite the bright colors and commercialized look of the homes.

The story is about surface appearance versus internal appearance.  While the characters seem to have everything (nice homes, nice jobs, nice families), the internal conflict hidden behind doors is great.  Suffering from depression, fear, guilt, and a lack of satisfaction, the adults find their insecurities surfacing in their children…and the family cycle is passed down.

ice storm christina ricci adam hann byrd

So…about your brother

The families in the movie are just so detached and the actors do a great job portraying them.  Sigourney Weaver is perfect as the cool and calculating Janey Carver who likes to call the shots, but doesn’t take well to people invading her world.  Kline does a good job playing the hypocritical, yet oddly sympathetic Ben Hood.  Christina Ricci makes an early stab showing her acting chops as the completely confused Wendy who wants to be child and an independent strong female, and though Elijah Wood was hailed for the performance as her “playmate”, I kind of liked Adam Hann-Byrd even more as his younger brother who is experimenting for the first time.  The movie also features nice performances from Tobey Maguire (as essentially the star of the movie since the movie really seems to be from his perspective) and a relatively small role by Katie Holmes as his dream girl Libbets Casey.

ice storm elijah wood electrocuted

I wish I was in the Shire

As a comic book geek, I loved that Moody based the structure of the story around a real comic book.  Many times, stories make up fake comics for films.  This story ties the events of the lives and the characters to the Fantastic Four…in particular Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #141.  It is an interesting concept, and I always like a more critical study of comics.

The movie is an actor’s movie, and is more visual and character driven than plot driven.  If you want to see great performances, check it out.  It might not be the most uplifting Thanksgiving film ever, but it is a movie about families.  Would it be wrong to consider this a comic book movie?  Yes, but the idea of life reflected in a comic book is a theme throughout the movie…scholarly comic book geeks might want to check it out too.  Ang Lee followed The Ice Storm with Ride with the Devil in 1999.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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