Parents' Guide to

The Ice Storm

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Drug use and sexual content in Ang Lee masterpiece.

Movie R 2001 112 minutes
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THE ICE STORM is an unforgettable experience. Set against a backdrop of Watergate-era malaise, universal themes of growing up, infidelity, and loneliness are filtered through the prism of a very specific time of 1970s "I'm OK, You're OK" permissiveness. What is conveyed so beautifully and unsparingly is the general awkwardness of innately nervous and uptight upper middle class characters trying to be open-minded about their assorted hedonistic endeavors; the adults are as halting and awkward while trying to swap spouses as the teens and preteens are in their attempts at recreational drug use and sexual experimentation. And wherein so many films tend to glorify and romanticize this behavior and this time period, each and every character in the film is a casualty of the cultural moment and of his or her individual actions. This is achieved, in part, by the all-star cast, who each deliver deeply nuanced portrayals.

The Ice Storm should be thought of as the yin to Dazed and Confused's yang. Both are excellent 1990s films set in the 1970s, and while the latter is a comedy celebrating the freedom of hedonistic youth in pre-Reagan America, the former is a tragedy where the permissiveness of the times comes across more like thoughtless self-indulgence with dire consequences. It's precisely this anti-nostalgia that makes The Ice Storm such an incredible film. The "liberation" of the times doesn't make these characters happier or freer -- it only seems to make their universal longings and situations that much worse.

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