It's time to warm up to this chilly film...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 11/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A lot of people I know compare this film to `American Beauty', and I totally understand why. Both films explore suburban family life in a way that is honest and flawed and completely exploitive without ever appearing overdone or, well, exploitive. I completely adore both films, but while `American Beauty' excels in really capturing the insecurities and eventual demise of the middle-aged man, `The Ice Storm' takes a different route (albeit similar circumstances) in that it exposes the moral breakdown of the average family.
Both films involve a family unit, complete with children, and both films expose a marriage on the rocks (complete with an affair) as well as childish rebellion and self discovery on both sides of the spectrum, but to be `The Ice Storm' works a little more in that it actually feels invested in every character.
Outside of Spacey, `American Beauty' loses some footing.
Ben and Elena Hood are seemingly happy parents with a daughter at home and a son off in school, but when their son Paul comes home for a visit they begin to visibly unravel. Both Paul and his sister Wendy are beginning to explore their own individuality, which as per usual involves some sort of distorted intimacy, and this coincides with their parents beginning to acknowledge their own inadequacies. Ben has been fooling around with Janey Carver, the mother of Mikey, Wendy's current flame. Elena is most likely privy to the affair, even if she refuses to admit it to herself, but what is even more pertinent is that the children here all know and understand far more than the parents want to believe.
What is so beautiful (tragically so) about `The Ice Storm' is that it exposes the messes we parents make while we falsely believe that our children are too young to understand all that they are witnessing.
Sigourney Weaver's character Janey is the perfect example of this very idea.
Across the board the film is filled with stellar performances that really ignite on contact. Kevin Kline has rarely been better (and when you consider that he also starred in the uproarious `In & Out' this same year you really have to hand it to him) and Joan Allen is all sorts of stellar as Elena, giving her a true sense of uninformed (or should I say unacknowledged) dread. Tobey Maguire, Adam Hann-Byrd, Christina Ricci (OMG amazing here), Elijah Wood and Katie Holmes all astound in their roles (some great child acting here); but it is one name that resounds loudest and that is Sigourney Weaver. Her understanding of the unaccepted flaws of Janey is just marvelous. That final scene, after the party, alone in the house and then suddenly aware of the truth; it's just a heart-stopper.
In the end I must say that `The Ice Storm' is one of the most sublimely done films on family tension I've ever seen, exposing the heart of human frailty without coming across as preachy, contrived or clichéd. It is honest, dark and surprisingly inspired, and the final moments (where eyes are opened for the very first time) add a layer of hope that is much needed in the world we live in today.