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"THE ICE STORM"
(1997) (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy None Heavy Mild None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate None None None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Mild Heavy Moderate Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Two dysfunctional families interact and fall apart over a wintery Thanksgiving in the 1970's.
PLOT:
It's Thanksgiving 1973, and sixteen-year-old Paul Hood (TOBEY MAGUIRE) is heading home to Connecticut to be with his family. Ben (KEVIN KLINE) and Elena Hood (JOAN ALLEN) have been married for nearly two decades, but are having marital problems. Their fourteen-year- old daughter Wendy (CHRISTINA RICCI) is quietly rebellious and is becoming more sexually active. Their neighbors, Jim (JAMEY SHERIDAN) and Janey (SIGOURNEY WEAVER), also have two kids, Mikey (ELIJAH WOOD), a rather spacey teenager, and Sandy (ADAM HANN-BYRD) his equally peculiar and often destructive younger brother. Both marriages are in turmoil since Ben and Janey are having an affair and the respective spouses suspect as much. The kids have their own romantic problems as Sandy is infatuated with Wendy, who experiments with him but also likes Mikey and fools around with him as well. Meanwhile, Paul goes to New York to see Libbets Casey (KATIE HOLMES) a girl that a school friend of his, Francis Davenport (DAVID KRUMHOLTZ), wants to bed before Paul gets the chance to lose his virginity with her. As the weekend progresses and a dangerous ice storm ensues, the families and their relationships begin to crack under the pressure.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Elijah Wood or Christina Ricci may draw some, but the plot involving somber familial problems will keep many away.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For sexuality and drug use, including scenes involving children, and for language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
With the adult affairs, and the kids sexually experimenting with each other, doing drugs, or shoplifting, few parents would consider any of the cast members as good role models.
CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Films dealing with eroding dysfunctional families usually have two sides. On one, they often have deep, well-developed characters that actors and actresses will usually sell their first born to play. These performances are occasionally quite good and sometimes generate critical acclaim and award nominations. On the other hand, films in this genre are often unpleasant events to sit through. We usually go to the movies to experience events or feel emotions not commonly found in our lives -- thus the success of action, horror, and sci-fi films among others. Unfortunately, though, most everyone has to had to deal with some sort of family problem at some point in their lives. So why would we want to sit though that again in a darkened theater?

"The Ice Storm," the latest film to fall into this troubled genre, fits the bill for both sides of that coin. The performances are first-rate, from Kline's awkward father and manhood problems to Weaver's own version of a human ice storm -- or at least ice princess in this case. Wood and Ricci are fine in their roles and seem perfectly cast since they always play kids on the outer fringe of normalcy anyway. And Joan Allen is extremely good in her role as the reserved and emotionally neglected wife. Despite all of that, however, the film is no fun to watch. It's uncomfortable, no one's happy, and there are dysfunctional problems galore. It's the antithesis of the "feel good" movie and while I suppose some people like to watch such stories (which probably explains the success of soap operas), all they do is generate a feeling of depression after you've seen them.

Director Ang Lee ("Eat Drink Man Woman," and "Sense and Sensibility") tries to offset the depressing drama by infusing the movie with much needed humor -- and some of it works. A scene where Wendy, wearing a President Nixon mask, is awkwardly groping, and being groped by Markey is hilarious, but in an odd sort of way. It is very funny, though, seeing "Tricky Dick" in an impromptu teen romance scene. For the most part though, putting such humor in a film like this is comparable to staging a comedy aboard the sinking Titanic. It may be amusing, but we're all aware that it won't cover up the fact that the ship is going down, and in this film, so are these families. While the ending is supposed to give us faith that at least one of the families is together and that they've survived the latest crisis, I seriously doubt that, if the story had continued after the closing credits, that they would still be together. Divorce court and big-time teen rebellion would be right around the corner.

Lee also lays on the deep symbolism in this film. The ice storm represents the icy cold emotions that all of these characters display to each other, while the parents are oblivious to the fact that the behavior they try to correct in their children is actually caused by, and is a childhood representation of, their own adult actions. One such moment, though, comes across as terribly misguided and seems too heavy handed. Elena, who appears to be a morally okay person, suddenly goes into a store and shoplifts some cosmetics. Since we earlier saw her daughter do the same with some junk food, we're supposed to believe "like mother, like daughter." That would be okay had it occurred because of an eventual mental breakdown over her husband's affairs with a neighbor friend. It doesn't though -- it happens too early -- and it just comes across as a staged plot device and is untrue to her character.

If you don't mind sitting through depressing movies, you'll probably enjoy the performances and the decent, but not great story. But if you're like us, this film is much like the movie "Leaving Las Vegas" -- which also had tremendous performances -- but was also too much of a downer to enjoy. You appreciate the acting and other parts of the film, but you leave the theater feeling blue and that's just not our cup of tea. If Lee had spiced up the story in some manner, or perhaps injected more humor, it would at least have been more tolerable. Instead, it comes off as a high- end, depressing, made for TV-type movie, only with higher caliber actors. For that reason, we give "The Ice Storm" just a 6 out of 10.

OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
Beyond the depressing storyline (which should drive away most kids), this film has material that some parents might find objectionable. Paul and his friend do bong hits, and later share a marijuana joint. The parents in the film drink quite a bit and Kevin Kline's character gets smashed from drinking vodka. Similarly, Wendy and Sandy drink vodka before climbing into bed together. That leads to Wendy's sexual experimentation with the two Carver brothers. While nothing is explicitly seen, there is a lot of implied behavior. The parents aren't left out of that category as we see two affairs with sexual movement and a little nudity. Beyond that, there's the subject of "key parties" where wives pick out car keys from a bowl and then head off with other husbands for a quick affair. Uses of profanity aren't too numerous, but do include four uses of the "f" word and several others. For those reasons, we strongly suggest that you examine the content should you or someone in your family wish to see this film.

ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Paul and Francis do bong hits.
  • Ben drinks a cocktail.
  • At a couple's get-together, everyone drinks.
  • Mikey drinks leftover amounts of cocktails and wine in the kitchen while his parents are having a dinner party (they later have after dinner drinks).
  • Ben drinks a glass of vodka and later we see him drinking right from the bottle.
  • People drink at a party where Janey has martinis and Ben gets drunk drinking vodka.
  • Paul, Francis and Libbets drink beer. The guys then smoke a joint. Later, Paul, trying to sabotage Francis, gives him some of the girl's mother's tranquilizers, but she then asks for some as well. They, of course, pass out from all of the depressants.
  • Before getting into bed together, Wendy drinks some vodka and gets Sandy to drink some as well.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • None.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • We learn that Francis has reportedly had many sexual "conquests," usually with girls who Paul was interested in.
  • Janey is mean toward Elena and won't let her help clean up after a dinner party. This, of course, is because she's having an affair with Ben. Thus, both she and Ben have bad attitudes regarding that. To retaliate, Elena has sex with Janey's husband.
  • In different scenes, and on their own, Wendy and Elena shoplift in stores.
  • Many of the couples participate in a "key" party where car keys are dropped in a bowl and the women pick out a set of keys and head off to have sex with the owner of them. This includes Jim and Janey and finally Ben and Elena (because she's mad at him for having an affair).
  • Paul, trying to keep Francis from sleeping with Libbets, gives him some of the girl's mother's tranquilizers hoping to knock him out. Libbets then asks for some herself and of course passes out along with Francis.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • There are some tense family scenes, but they aren't of the suspenseful variety.
  • Mikey hops up and down on an ice-covered diving board high above an empty swimming pool and nearly slips off several times.
  • An electrical wire, weighed down by the ice, falls to the street and strikes the guardrail that a boy's sitting on, killing him.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Freak," "Dufus," and "Horny" (sexual).
  • Wendy shoplifts some snack food from a store.
  • Elena shoplifts some cosmetics from a store.
  • Sandy blows up some of his toys with firecrackers and sends a glider plane through the air that then also blows up. He later mentions he'll do something similar to a teacher, and then whips a flowerbed (with a whip).
  • Paul, trying to keep Francis from sleeping with Libbets, gives him some of the girl's mother's tranquilizers hoping to knock him out. Libbets then asks for some herself and of course she passes out along with Francis.
  • Mikey hops up and down on an ice-covered diving board high above an empty swimming pool.
  • Mikey slides down the middle of an ice-covered road at night.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 4 "f" words (1 used with "mother"), 7 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" word and "wiener"), 6 hells, 1 ass (used with "hole"), 1 crap, 1 damn, and 1 use each of "G- damn," "Oh Jesus," "Jesus," "For God's sakes," and "Jesus Christ" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We learn that Paul is a virgin, while his friend Francis has reportedly had many sexual "conquests," usually with girls who Paul was interested in.
  • A friend of Wendy's tells her that she heard that she licked a certain guy's "wiener" in a bathroom, but Wendy says she wouldn't do that after he "stuck it in somebody else."
  • Ben and Janey have sex under the covers and we see some brief movement (but no nudity) and also hear some sexual sounds.
  • Wendy heads to the bathroom where she runs into Sandy. They stand there for a moment until Wendy tells him, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours." They then close the door and she exposes herself to him (we don't see anything), but he chickens out and begins yelling to attract his mother.
  • It's implied that Ben and Elena have sex (but nothing is seen).
  • Ben tries to have a sex education talk with Paul. He talks about "self abuse" (masturbation) and tells him it's not advisable in the shower (a waste of water and electricity) and not to do it "on the linens."
  • Thinking they're alone in the house, Wendy and Mikey start to fool around. She tells him, "I'll touch it, but that's as far as it goes." He then unzips his pants and gets between her legs on the couch. She starts to pull down his pants when Ben suddenly comes downstairs and catches them.
  • Many of the couples participate in a "key" party where car keys are dropped in a bowl and the women pick out a set of keys and head off to have sex with the owner. This includes Jim and Janey and finally Ben and Elena (because she's mad at him for having an affair).
  • A priest interested in Elena tells her about his being at party, "Sometimes the shepherd needs the sheep" (and she takes this as a sexual comment).
  • Libbets tells Paul that she sees him as an older brother. That pretty much deflates his chances, but he then tells her that they should take a bath together (like young brothers and sisters would). Libbets then passes out and her head lands right in his crotch, and he seems somewhat happy this has happened.
  • Alone together in his home, Wendy asks Sandy, "Can I get in bed with you?" They then get into bed and undress under the covers and snuggle up with each other. She then asks if he's ever had nocturnal emissions (and describes them), but he doesn't know what she's talking about. We never learn if they do anything sexual, but they are found asleep in the bed.
  • Elena and Jim go out to his car and begin making out. They then recline the seat back and he gets between her legs and they quickly have sex. We see his bare butt along with brief movement.
  • SMOKING
  • At a couple's get together, all but Ben and Elena smoke.
  • The Carver's smoke after dinner.
  • Wendy and her friends smoke.
  • Janey smokes and later Ben smokes waiting for her to return.
  • People smoke at a party.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • The film is filled with dysfunctional families and their problems. Ben and Elena don't get along (causing the kids to briefly talk about whether they're headed for divorce), and this is mainly because he's having an affair with Janey (thus straining both marriages). There's also a big communications gap between the adults and their kids.
  • A father must deal with the death of his son.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Family problems.
  • Teens and sexual experimentation.
  • That the film represents an era when different types of behavior were "accepted."
  • VIOLENCE
  • We briefly see a TV movie where some people are fighting.
  • An electrical wire, weighed down by the ice, falls to the street and strikes the guardrail that a boy's sitting on, killing him.



  • Reviewed October 10, 1997

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