This alignment often begins with a good director and a good script, along with a good production team and a strong corps or actors.
But then things need to work.The director needs to have a vision.The producers need to let the director manage his cast.The actors need to be in sync, to work well with each other, and to be comfortable with the director and that person’s lead.And the script needs to work, to present strong characters, while providing enough freedom for the actors to shine in their scenes.
Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm delivers on each of these fronts, and provides a remarkably powerful story of a few days in the life of several Gold Coast Connecticut families, each of whom goes through a series of life changing experiences over the night of a powerful ice storm.
Two families figure prominently.Foremost are the Hood’s, led by Kevin Kline and Joan Allen as a couple entering middle age, unwittingly distancing themselves from one another, as their teenage children, Tobey Maguire and Christina Ricci, each wrestle with the challenges typical to those years.Their neighbors, the Carver’s, feature Sigourney Weaver as a headstrong character with her own sense of propriety, her successful husband, and their two boys, one, Elijah Wood, a peer and pal to Ricci’s character, the other Adam Hann-Byrd, the more complicated pre-teen anxious and angry, unsure of himself and the world.
While the film employs the circular narrative popular at the time of release, featuring opening and closing shots to tie the loop, the story transpires over a few short days around Thanksgiving, 1973, and a major ice storm that closes highways, makes rail travel difficult, and cut power to homes across the region.Over a backdrop of sexual revolution leaking down into the suburbs, national politics infesting daily news coverage, and youthful indiscretions writ large, the ice storm becomes a force greater than its’ own energy, forever changing the lives of each member of these two families.
While billed as a film with three stars when released in 1997, with Kline, Allen and Weaver in major roles, it’s also the work of Maguire, Ricci, Wood, and a very young Katie Holmes as a spoiled little rich girl, that complements their more senior colleagues, and helps to make this film so compelling.
While it only seeks to sample a few days in just a few lives of just a few privileged people in a small corner of Connecticut, ‘The Ice Storm’ is a wonderful metaphor for all the challenges and uncertainties that Americans, and many white suburbanites, were experiencing in the early 1970’s, truly the fading days of the 1960’s.