Don't You Forget About: The Ice Storm

Sure, it's fun to catch the latest flick at the multiplex, or grab the newest release at a video store, but sometimes you just gotta say, "Out with the new, and in with the unknown." There are plenty of older flicks out there that are worth a rental, but never registered on your radar. In Don't You Forget About, we remember the long-gone gems, so you don't have to.

Photo: movieposter.com

I will never understand why The Ice Storm was only nominated for one Golden Globe and zero Academy Awards. The film features an amazing cast where both seasoned actors, such as Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen and Kevin Klein, shine as well as then-child actors Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz. The story poetically intertwines the lives of two families and turns ordinary events into moving scenes, layered with symbolism and metaphors. The script is also beautiful, bringing to life the minds of younger characters through words and adults through actions. It's a stunning film in so many ways yet only Weaver was nominated for supporting actress at that year's Golden Globes. It's just perplexing.

The Ice Storm is about storms: the storms within marriages, between parents and children, between friends, while growing up and while growing old, all encapsulated in the ice storm whipping through town and rattling both the Hood and Carver families. In just under two hours, the film confronts affairs, divorce, virginity, and betrayal, as several interconnected narratives slowly unwind and ultimately come to a crashing halt. Ben Hood (Klein) is having an affair with his neighbour Janey Carver (Weaver) as his wife (Allen) begins to grow suspicious. His daugther Wendy (Ricci) experiments with Janey's sons (Wood and Adam Hann-Byrd), pushing sexual adolescent boundaries, while Ben's son Paul (Maguire) fights with his friend (Krumholtz) for the attention of Libbets Casey (Holmes).

It's a slow-moving film, punctuated by an eerie score, that through the complexity and beauty of its characters, constantly tug you through. They seem so real. It feels as if they really exist somewhere and through this film, we're allowed to peek through the curtains of their lives and for a moment, feel what they feel. It's partly because many of the emotions in this film are feelings we've already somewhat felt in our lives: feeling that something is going on behind your back but feeling so hurt that you never want to truly know, wishing that a relationship that you once had hadn't wilted away, feeling so nervous to talk to someone you're crushing on and finally working up the nerve only to be beaten to it by someone else. The Ice Storm trespasses through the feelings you've never really told anyone else but felt them so deeply that you've been shaken by them for nights.

As real as the film feels, it also seems to exist in the metaphor of a strangely alternate universe. The film opens with Ben on a train reading a "Fantastic Four" comic book and in voice over, explaining that "a family is like your own personal anti-matter. Your family is the void you emerge from, and the place you return to when you die. And that's the paradox - the closer you're drawn back in, the deeper into the void you go." Midway through the film, he returns, "To find yourself in the negative zone, as the Fantastic Four often do, means all every day assumptions are inverted. ... In your life, it's kind of like you dip in and out of it, a place where things don't quite work out the way they should. But for some people, the negative zone tempts them. And they end up going in, going in all the way." As the audience, we never know the characters before entering the negative zone because the zone is the storm, which immerses the entire film. If the characters are so real now, you imagine that their entire lives before were staged and you realize that in a way, we do stage our lives. Only when we enter this zone or become sucked into the void does the truth reveal itself. It's ideas like these in the film that are so beautiful thanks to the original book by Rick Moody.

The entire film is a work of art. It's like a finely-detailed painting or passionately-composed symphony. The Ice Storm is such a gorgeous film that as long as we live our complex, inter-woven lives, we should never forget it.

1 comment:

  1. The Ice Storm was my favorite movie of 1997 and I was shocked when it didn't receive any Oscar nominations. Since I've had 14 years to think about it, I'll try to answer the "why" question posed in the opening of your review. The majority of nominees for major categories were end-of-year box office hits. The Full Monty was a summer release, but given the worldwide economic meltdown at the time, it was timely. The Ice Storm was released in September and did very poorly at the box office. I saw it opening weekend in Chicago and recall an audience of under 10 people (1 was a film critic revisiting the picture). In my opinion, some of the worst decisions in Oscar history took place in 1997 - overlooking The Ice Storm for Best Picture, and Titanic winning Best Picture.