Beautifully filmed, it provides the crackling edge needed as the wife-swapping key party comes to full boil and then sinks into its own damage.
Taiwanese director Ang Lee, who captured Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," has now managed to catch New Canaan, Connecticut, 1973 in "The Ice Storm." He sketches the atmosphere of that very uneasy time with a sure eye for the cultural currents at work. Nixon was revealed as a fraud; liberation was beginning to bubble up in the minds of women; and many parents joined their children in the perpetual sexual adolescence unleashed by the sexual revolution that rained down on America's upscale suburbs with crippling force--an ice storm indeed.
This was the era when men in identical trench coats were defined by commuter trains and golf scores, while their wives lived claustrophobia and desperation. New Canaan, like its counterparts up and down the East Coast, was bursting with affluence, boredom, and suppression. Women began to understand their voluntary servitude for the first time and were beginning to listen to the hints of freedom--sexual and emotional--that hung in the new air. These women of the 70s were exploring, and many of them were angry and scared.
Ang Lee has gathered up these threads and handed them to a terrific cast that has the intelligence and sensitivity to convey the discomfort that infected the period. Ben and Elena Hood (Kevin Kline and Joan Allen) are locked in a shrill, silent marriage that is eroding partly because of Elena's indifference and partly because of Ben's affair with their best friend, Jane (Sigourney Weaver). Jane bristles with rage at an absentee husband and the excitement that is denied her as a suburban wife. She's smart enough to feel the pain of the ties that bind.
On the night that the guests at a New Canaan dinner party throw their car keys into a bowl, an ice storm born of a freakish progression of rain to deep freeze to wind throws all the predicaments and miseries of this uncomfortable group into crisis proportions. Suddenly the barren reality of relationships between husbands and wives and parents and children becomes a screaming presence. Boredom roars.
The sexual parlor game promises diversion from the relentless string of Saturday nights spent in the same familiar company. At least now they can go to bed together. Sigourney Weaver is peerless: "Ben you're boring me. I have one husband; I have no need for another."
Director Lee makes much of the storm that is seen in its full fury through the picture windows of the houses in its path. Beautifully filmed, it provides the crackling edge needed as the wife-swapping key party comes to full boil and then sinks into its own damage.
The explanation for Mr. Lee's golden touch in a global culture may well be that he knows that adultery, family, rebellion--against parents or against the societal mandate--are the stuff of universal human behavior. After that he can surround himself with cultural research and truly fine ensemble acting to make it come alive. He shows us the pain of self-indulgence.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h52m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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