The Ice Storm (1997)

the ice storm

There is no doubt that Ang Lee is one of the best directors currently working. Lee has won 2 best director Oscars from 3 nominations and dozens of others substantial awards. He does big purposeful dramas like nobody else, bringing timeless stories to screen that always manage connect with mainstream audiences.

Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon all became breakout hits because of how universal they are. Love, religion, honour, these films have become his most popular. Aside from these big films though, Ang Lee has fleshed out an impressive filmography that consists of half a dozen classics that haven’t had the reach of his Oscar films.

One of these classics is The Ice Storm. The films follows two dysfunctional Connecticut families in the early 1970s. It is a time of change for America and these two families struggle to adjust with the changing notions around sex, drugs, alcohol, adultery and politics.

Lee beautifully introduces a whole host of different characters that all have distinctly different personalities and issues. The first half is dedicated to these introductions, it often feels a tad skittish but once the film finds its rhythm and the characters quirks are set-up the film becomes very addictive. The second half is the goal for Lee, this is where the titles ice storm hits and each of the characters face different trials and tribulations.

Unlike the similar American Beauty, The Ice Storm doesn’t have two big performances to hang its hat on. This is mostly due to The Ice Storm not having a lead character, instead Lee has assembled a strong supporting full of competent actors, many of whom produce their best work.

Despite featuring the likes of Joan Allen, Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, it is the teen cast that really shines. Tobey Maguire delivers a quiet and graceful performance, he almost acts as the audiences eyes. By being the least ‘interesting’ character he manages to feel the most relatable and is a great conduit to this world. Christina Ricci’s sexual exploration and Elijah Wood’s disconnect are both handled wonderfully from both actors.

The Ice Storm doesn’t go to the depths you want it to, but it is still brilliant. Ang Lee gives you a taste of these troubled lives and leaves with the urge for more. By keeping it brief it makes you think about it more, it pushes you to come to your own conclusions and find your own meanings. The black comedy and the real world drama are mixed perfectly and this ends up being one of Ang Lee’s best films.

4.5 out of 5.0

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