In the new film from director Ang Lee (Sense And Sensibility), the 1970's are sliced open and laid bare. Here, elements of the 'decade that style forgot' are treated not as kitsch but as sources of true unease. Wife swapping, drugs, key parties, illicit sex and new age philosophies are not painted as roads to liberation but as sign posts indicating the way to personal tragedy.Conservative? Maybe. Great film making? Definitely.
It's November 1973, and the tumultuous seventies have finally arrived in the neat and tidy town of New Canaan, Connecticut. Two essentially conservative families have decided to get into the swing of things.
Ben Hood (Kline) is cheating on his wife Elena (Allen) with sexy neighbour Janey Carver (Weaver) who has tired of her spaced out husband (Sheridan). Meanwhile teen Wendy Hood (Christina Ricci) is playing "you show me yours, I'll show you mine" with brothers Mikey and Sandy Carver (Elijah Wood and Adam Hann-Byrd). Her older brother Paul (Tobey Maguire) is in the big city chasing pussy and smoking pot. All this sexual confusion comes to a head at a wife swapping party which will lead to tragedy and a dark personal reckoning.
Lee has fashioned a truly mesmerising film that never becomes a nostalgia piece or a campy joke. He is too intelligent and incisive a director for that. His interest lies not in the surface elements of the seventies, but in the profound effect that those free wheeling times had on the people who weren't ready for them. His cold, icy suburban landscape is unlike any ever seen on the screen before: a moody, almost menacing atmosphere aided by a superbly unsettling musical score.
With such richly textured characters to inhabit, all the actors shine. Kline is at his vacant, endearing best while Weaver creates the ultimate suburban ice queen. Lee has also picked the best adolescent actors in the business and they all bring remarkable maturity and depth to their performances.
With the visually striking The Ice Storm, Ang Lee has created a wholly original portrait of a time when irresponsibility and experimentation were forced on people who should have known better. Thankfully his stance is more humanist than conservative.This is a film of rare intelligence and compassion which stands as one of the best of the year. A moving, deeply affecting experience. ---Erin Free