Ice Storm
House Church Central Goes to the Movies

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Good Machine Productions. Produced by Ted Hope, James Schamaus, and Ang Lee. Written by James Schamaus. Directed by Ang Lee.

The destruction caused by an ice storm is a gradual process, as water coats the limbs of trees and freezes, gradually adding weight until they fracture and fall. There is such a storm in this film, both literally and metaphorically as two families gradually yield to the storm of the sexual revolution.The Hoods (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Christina Ricci, et al) and the Carvers (James Sheridan and Sigourney Weaver, et al)--who are neighbors in the affluent suburb of New York City that is called "New Cannan." (Yes! There is such a place. I grew up in the neighboring town of Darien). New Cannan may have been a promised land to its founders, but to this culture of the 1970s, it is full of Cannanites. Nixon's presidency is crumbling, society is crumbling, and these families are crumbling.

The movie is built on an interesting framework. One of the Hood sons, a prep school kid named Paul (Toby Maguire), provides a running interpretation from a comic book family of super heroes. Example: "For some people, there is something about the negative zone that tempts them, and they wind up going in all the way." While not beyond his own attempts at dealing with the "sexual revolution" of this time and place, he is probably the one who maintains the greatest stability and insight of all the characters in the film. But all the members of these families are exploring the boundaries of their culture in their own way. There are adulteries, there are kids doing "I'll show you mine if you show me yours," there is shoplifting, and even children blowing up their toys. All this in a place of affluence, as these unhappy people desperately try to find the pleasure that always seem to elude them. Even the local pastor is completely fallen, showing up at a wife-swapping party. A high point in the film, for this viewer, was the rebuke that forced him to reconcile his actions with the beliefs he professes, causing him to leave the party in shame.

But there is a redemptive payoff in this film. While the Carver family seems to implode under the pressure, the Hoods learn from the events that have taken place. The secret affairs, the lack of trust, the violation of vows--it is all out in the open and they all seem to admit their culpability. They do that which is so rare in our society today: they take responsibility for their actions. When Paul's train arrives at the New Canaan station on the morning after the ice storm, he sees his family waiting for him. For the first time they actually look like a family. There is a sense of forgiveness and a sense of hope as the movie concludes, delivering some lessons well needed by our culture. By watching these families suffer the consequences of their behavior, we can learn to avoid those same consequences by moderating ours.

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