The Ice Storm
***.6 GM
Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Adam Hann-Byrd, Katie Holmes


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Family relationships are taken for granted sometimes in this country - everyone wants parents to be responsible rather than having the 'government invading our households' and what-not - but parents are hardly dependable influences on their kids themselves, be they violent, frustrated blue-collar drunkards or affected, distant white-collar intellectuals. So much is made of the former that it's interesting to see a film dwell on the latter.

This is the story of an educated upper-class Connecticut family in the early 70s. Kevin Kline is cheating on Joan Allen with Sigourney Weaver who lives next door because he's feeling unfulfilled, Allen is emotionally adrift and longing for some sort of freedom herself because she's feeling unfulfilled, and their children (Tobey Maguire and Christina Ricci) are having trouble making true emotional connections to the people around them because they've never had any themselves and thus, are also unfulfilled. This might not be particularly unique, since very few people on the planet can claim they feel perfectly content, but when you don't have any knowledge of where you might try to find it, or worse, when you THINK you have it or think you SHOULD have it, but you don't, things can get frustrating and cold in a hurry.

The emotional distance and periodic fearful struggles to bridge the gaps between the family members seem real and the tension is palpable. In the case of this family, it's not for lack of desire or attempts, but for every awkwardly touching moment they can find with each other, there are a handful of cynical arguments and stumbling failures that keep the gulfs between them seemingly insurmountable. This sort of thing happens everywhere - emotional connections that should be guaranteed and supportive are left uncreated and missed desperately, sometimes out of rancor, sometimes out of a simple lack of things in common to relate to. It's one of the many sad facts of life.

All the performances here are great and perfectly understated, and the whole film continues to improve in hindsight, after further rumination on the events contained within. The final scene is the first genuine show of emotion to chip at the icy distance between the characters, but it doesn't fully break until after the film is over and you're left to ponder it all. It's the kind of film that doesn't affect you until after reflection, which is fitting, because these are the relationships that don't affect you until you're old enough to realize what you've been missing.

And any film that has an issue of the Fantastic Four as a major component has a major plus going for it right away. It makes me happy that director Ang Lee will be helming the upcoming Hulk film.

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