Autodidact: self-taught

Aug
08
2013

The Ice Storm

by V. L. Craven

Saskatchewan

I’ve always loved the look of an unbroken plain of snow. The hush it gives the world. How, in the moonlight, it can be so bright. How, when you live some place unprepared for it, you get out of school for flurries. Cold weather clothes are my favourite, as well. Oddly, I do not care to actually be cold. I do, however, like that when it’s cold one can use that as an excuse not to leave the house. And I like looking at cold things. Like films set in cold climates or during cold snaps. And since it’s currently ridiculously hot and humid where I am I’m choosing to chill out with some cool films over the next few weeks.

If the idea appeals to you, here are some lists of suggestions:

Time:  Top 10 Freezing Cold Movies
Letterbox: Gloomy Movies Set in the Cold
A.V. Club: No Cure for Cabin Fever: 16 Memorable Films Set During Cold Snaps

The first film in this series of reviews is The Ice Storm by Ang Lee.

The Ice Storm

It’s Thanksgiving 1973 and it’s a groovy time. Except for the ridiculous amount of dysfunction running rampant in the Carvers and the Hoods, the households the plot centres around.

You’ve got all of the 70s–swinging, Nixon, casual drug use, marriage counseling is all the rage, etc. And every single character is having some sort of sexual problem. Either they’re sleeping with the wrong person (or trying to) or they’re frustrated in their marriage or they’re a teenager–and not the kind having easy sex. Everyone is trying to figure themselves out–adults and kids alike. It’s like a metaphor for the 70s, in a way. the rules were no longer hard and fast and people didn’t know where that left them.

The backdrop to all of this is cold, cold weather, culminating in the titular ice storm. Even though it was actually shot during the spring, the cinematographer, Frederick Elmes, did an excellent job of making it feel cold. The scenes outside even before the weather turns is beautiful; and once the weather does turn towards the worse, one of the characters takes a walk. And it’s gorgeous.

Ice Storm Still

The Ice Storm is a character-driven, quiet piece, much like Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, which puts much of the weight on the actors.

Which brings us to the cast. The younger set are Christina Ricci, Elijah Woods, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz. This was released in 1997 so they were really young. It was Katie Holmes’ film debut.

The adults are Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Jamey Sheridan. Allison Janney has a great smaller bit. All of the performances were excellent.

Released in 1997, it was based on a 1994 novel written by Rick Moody, who, apparently enjoyed the movie so much he wept through the closing credits. I’m sure many other authors have wept through the end credits of film adaptations of their work, but I’m not sure how many of those tears were out of joy.

This is one of those films where everything worked together very well. The writing, directing, acting, soundtrack, etc. It would be good any day of the year, but it’s perfect for a sweltering day in August.

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