Why ‘The Ice Storm’ from 1997 Should Be a Movie Classic

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By Megan Bianco

With the so much time having passed, the 1990s are now being considered a “classic” decade. While I try not to feel old because the decade of my childhood is now an “oldies” era to today’s teenagers, I do find it fascinating what pop culture from that time remains relevant, if not more popular.

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One movie that I’ve always been impressed by is Ang Lee’s adaptation of Rick Moody’s novel The Ice Storm from 1997. The original year of release was a big one for Hollywood with Titanic, Boogie Nights, L.A. Confidential, Jackie Brown, Good Will Hunting and As Good as It Gets to name a few hits. Naturally, Lee’s retro drama would be buried a little bit in the shuffle.

Now reaching the mid-point of the holiday season, and with so few Thanksgiving movies out there to pick from compared to Halloween and Christmas, this week would be a great time to revisit The Ice Storm. Starring some of the biggest names in film during the ‘90s—Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood and Katie Holmes—the story takes place during a record-breaking cold Thanksgiving break in 1973 in New Canaan, CT. Sixteen-year-old Paul Hood (Maguire) returns home for the holiday from his prep boarding school while pining for pretty classmate Libbets Casey (Holmes). His dad Ben (Kline) is having an affair with Janey Carver (Weaver) from the neighborhood, his mom Elena (Allen) is having a mid-life crisis as a housewife, and Paul’s 14-year-old sister Wendy (Ricci) likes messing with Janey’s sons Mikey (Wood) and Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd).

It’s surprising that even two decades later, Lee’s most overlooked feature still hasn’t found much traction with general audiences. It did well with critics and got a couple of award nominations, on top of the all-star cast, and yet languishes in obscurity. In the era of “Netflix and chill” and legal marijuana, you’d think a movie that features drug experimentation, sexual awakenings and a key party would make the rounds again. So I’m going to personally plug what I feel is Lee’s most fascinating and brilliant film and has Kline, Weaver, Ricci and Wood at their best. The movie is particularly a poignant moment for Ricci and Wood, as it was their transition from family films to adult parts.

The Taiwanese filmmaker has an interesting flare for capturing Western culture in his pictures whether it’s 1811 England with Sense and Sensibility (1995) or 1973 Connecticut in The Ice Storm. With the latter, he shows how self-involved and confused most people were in the mid-20th century, with the icy cinematography from Frederick Elmes and somber music score by Mychael Danna.

If you want to take a break from Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) or Hannah & Her Sisters (1986) for a turkey weekend flick, The Ice Storm is my recommendation.

Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.

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