October 13, 1997 12:00 PM

Kevin Kline, Sigoumey Weaver

Based on Rick Moody’s 1994 novel, this exceptional ’70s mood piece moves, at a pensively glacial pace, across terrain once mapped out by John Cheever and John Updike. The setting here is a Connecticut suburb where, as the cultural revolution of the ’60s plays out into the following decade, everyone is itching to do his or her own thing but (frustratingly) within the traditional confines of raising the kids and commuting to Manhattan. The kids has been unbridled, but the station wagon remains the vehicle of choice. Kline is running around with Weaver (in haute retro fashions that make her look like Ab Fab’s Joanna Lumley), while his wife (Joan Allen) is getting the come-on from a liberal minister who wears his long hair as he might once have worn a collar—it’s his badge of authenticity. Yet all these limbs rubbing together furiously emit no sparks. A climactic wife-swapping party gets under way while outside an ice storm rains down, freezing roads, trees and power lines. The soul is frigid, the world a Frigidaire.

One might argue that Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility), directing with meticulous attention to period detail and emotional nuance (the ensemble cast is faultless), has made his movie a few degrees cooler than necessary. But how else would he have achieved The Ice Storm’s crystalline perfection? (R)

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