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Cinemalphabet: I is for The Ice Storm (1997)

April 23, 2011

Nothing goes better with leftover turkey and fixings than a heartwarming entry from The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Ordinary People™ genre! The Ice Storm – the film adaptation of a Rick Moody novel (I know, right. It totally smells like a Russell Banks novel, except well Banks’ novels usually aren’t peppered with sharply drawn humor) – tells the story of two, affluent nice white families in Connecticut (no less) slowly melting down over the course of Thanksgiving holiday as many of the early 70s excesses finally make it to the suburbs.

Oh the passions, the pathos and problems of these suburbanites who are choking too death on the banality of being so comfortable. Kevin Kline refashions one of his numerous stuffy, uptight white guy roles and plays it straight – straight into Sigourney Weaver’s bed. Which would be lovely, except, Weaver’s character is not is wife. A frosty, freeze dried Stepford wife in the form of Joan Allen is! It sounds a little contrived and doesn’t seem like the sort of film that mixes moments of hilarity with terrible tragedy, but it does. Thanks largely to deft direction from Ang Lee and Moody’s brilliant source material. As far as adaptations go, I find The Ice Storm very good at capturing the tone and feeling of the novel, even when it departs from the source plotwise. Still, if you’ve read the novel you don’t have to worry; many of the major elements are there. In fact, the film treatment of this novel in some ways reminds me The Virgin Suicides, in that it really tries to make the film look and sound like the novel. Because of the careful attention to period details, The Ice Storm at times feels a bit too in love with its own manufactured nostalgia, but that’s really a minor quibble.The Ice Storm is adept at getting the audience to care about extremely comfortable characters’ whose misery is largely self inflicted – a hallmark of The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Ordinary People™ genre – while also feeling smug at their reversals of fortune.

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