"The Ice Storm" takes place as an early winter storm descends on Connecticut, casting over Thanksgiving a shroud of impending doom. In a wooded suburb, affluent adults stir restlessly in their split-level homes, depressed not only by their lives but by their entertainments, and even by their sins. Their teenage children have started experimenting with the same forms of escape: booze, pot and sex.
The Hood family is held together by quiet desperation. Ben (Kevin Kline) is having an affair with a neighbor (Sigourney Weaver). His wife Elena (Joan Allen) is a shoplifter who is being hit on by a long-haired minister. The children sip wine in the kitchen. Young Wendy Hood's grace before Thanksgiving dinner is to the point: "Thanks for letting us white people kill all the Indians and steal all their stuff."Ben and Elena observe later, "The only big fight we've had in years is about whether to go back into couples therapy."
The film, based on a novel by Rick Moody, has been directed by Ang Lee, whose previous credit was an adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility."Both films are about families observing protocol and exchanging visits. Only the rules have changed. When Ben Hood visits Janey Carver (Weaver) for an adulterous liaison, he wanders into Janey's rec room to find his own daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), experimenting with Janey's son Mikey (Elijah Wood). Wendy, who is 14, has also conducted an exploratory session with Mikey's kid brother, Sandy. The father asks his daughter what she's doing there. She could as easily have asked him.
The early 1970s were a time when the social revolution of the 1960s had seeped down, or up, into the yuppie classes, who wanted to be "with it"and supplemented their martinis with reefer. The sexual revolution is in full swing for the characters in this movie, leading to Ben Hood's lecture to his son on the facts of life: "Masturbating in the shower wastes water and electricity."When Janey Carver finds her son and the Hood girl playing "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours,"her response is a bizarre speech on Margaret Mead's book about coming of age in Samoa.