Ice Storm Essay

There are many ways to tell a story. Back before there were books there as the
actual storyteller who could speak out a story. There is also acting where
people physically perform a story. Books are another storytelling device that is
more permanent, the words are kept and they can be reviewed again and again. Now
there are movies, which provide story telling with more an emphasis on visual
effects. The question is which way is the best to present a certain type of
story. The Ice Storm by Rick Moody was in such a position that one could
actually look at both the modern movie and the book version. The story is a
realistic story about the Hoods and the Willams. Both of these families were
affluent families that lived in New Canaan. The book centers around Wendy and
the events that take place during the their thanksgiving in the 70s. The story
is pretty simple and is about family strife. Wendy is a typical adolescent
exploring her sexuality. At the same time her parents, Ben and Elena are having
marital differences. Ben is cheating on his wife with Janey, the wife of his
close friend Jim. The irony comes up with Wendy who is has sexual relations with
Janey and Jim’s son Mikey and his younger brother Sandy. Wendy’s older
brother Paul who goes to boarding school returns home and is sexual
inexperienced he desires to be with a girl named Libbets. The story centers
around a key party that both the Hood’s and Willams’ attend. The highlight
of the key party is where people place their keys into a jar and people pick up
the keys of different people to have sex with the owner of the keys. At this
party Ben expects to have sex with Janey, but instead Janey blows him off and
has sex with someone else. This night Elena also finds out about the affair and
has an affair with Jim, Janey’s wife. Now while both of the parents are away
Mikey wants to see Wendy, but instead Wendy fools around with Sandy. Mikey ends
up wandering during the ice storm to get electrocuted by a live wire. At the
same time Paul is with Libbets drinking and taking drugs. All of this is
happening simultaneously on one fortuitous night. Though the events and a lot of
the dialogue are the same in both the book and the movie the crux of the two are
completely different. The book focuses a lot more on sexual tension and sexual
exploration. The vocabulary they use is a lot more elaborate than the movie,
actually it’s more elaborate than most books. I see few books that use the
word “orgasm” or “bestiality” at all. It’s not typical book lingo.

Though the vocabulary emphasizes the sexual nature of the book. The movie on the
other hand probably wouldn’t make a lot of money going with the erotic taboo
nature of the book. Instead it focuses more around the ideas of family neglect
and the hypocrisy of the parents doing what they don’t want their kids to do.

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The story is more like an MTV clip of the real world than the book plot. Though
that’s what makes the movie so great. The people seem so real, like everyday
people. The relation is even stronger because I live in an affluent community.

The two different focuses put a different tint into the same story. For instance
there is a scene where Sandy and Wendy are fooling around while their parents
were gone. The dialogue is exactly the same. Wendy says, “Have you ever had a
nocturnal emission” and Sandy replies, “Huh?” Wendy says, “They didn’t
tell you this stuff yet? What planet do you live on?” (149). In the movie
it’s pretty insignificant. The movie is more about the shock that these kids
are fooling around in bed and the talk shows how they’re so immature about
sex. In the book though this is significant because the next page they show what
Wendy is thinking and how she doesn’t even know what she is talking about.

“She didn’t know much about them anyway. Orgasm was a word she had looked up
a dozen times, and still she didn’t know exactly what it meant” (150). The
whole page goes through a myriad number of sexual terms that Wendy was thinking
about. This scene shows how she was curious in learning what these things were.

It basically emphasizes the motif of sexual exploration. The scenes of sexual
abuse that would explain or justify the extreme sexual curiosity that Wendy has
is left out of the movie. “Her father humiliated her with language until she
did so ? called her a slut and a hooker and a princess” (237). While that
may be mildly shocking, the shocking scene is where “her mother restrained
Wendy in a choke hold” (238). All of this abuse was cut from the movie, it was
probably too dramatic and shocking to show on TV. The fact is that the abuse
made Wendy stray further from her parents and search for “love” of some
shape or form. Instead Wendy mixed up love and sex. The movie cuts out the
explanation of Wendy’s sexual prowess completely. Though the movie isn’t
empathizing this for the taboo nature of sex. Instead Wendy is portrayed as an
archetypal troubled teenager who gets herself into trouble. The sex scene
between Wendy and Sandy in the movie also involves drinking and some swearing.

The movie seems to put all of the typical “bad” things that teenagers do and
associate them with Wendy. There is a scene between Wendy and her brother where
Wendy and her brother fight. The same dialogue is used, but in the movie Wendy
gets quite upset. The emotion that Christina Ricci, who played Wendy, shows
emphasizes the motif of the troubled teenager over the motif of sexual tension.

The parents have a similar motif switch as Wendy does. The whole section about
the Key party is much more elaborate and erotic in the book than it is in the
movie. In the book the party there was a bigger emphasis on Neil a 19-year-old
boy at this adult sex party. “And what about Neil? … Still not a single
adult had questioned his presence there”. His mother brought him to his party;
he was portrayed as a hansom young boy that was eager to have sex. In the movie
Neil’s character was used to seduce Janey instead of Ben seducing her.

Basically in the movie he is more like the antagonist that takes the woman away
from the guy. In the book he is more sexually curious and came to this party to
just have sex; he didn’t care whom with. Though the dramatic scene where Neil
takes Janey instead of Ben is accompanied by morose dramatic music. This is to
emphasize the point of the superficiality of the sex that Janey and Ben had.

Instead the scene doesn’t seem as dramatic in the book. All the book says is
“Janey selected away from Benjamin Hood” (169). The movie shows Ben about to
cry and he puts his arms in his head. Even later in the movie he was sitting in
the bathroom stewing about the dilemma. The motif of sexual exploration is also
amplified during the key party. Moody wrote the various thoughts that the people
were thinking when getting their partner for the night. “He (Earle, one of the
males at the party) had had someone else in mind. On the other hand who knew
really? Maybe he felt real affection” (167). Their thoughts behind the sex are
displayed in the book. While the movie just shows the people getting their
sexual partners and facial expressions. The facial expressions are misleading
and only because I read the book I can infer what Moody may have had in mind.

Otherwise to the average person they would be pretty irrelevant. The focus on
the main parent’s the Hood’s and Williams were both shown in two different
ways as well. At the key party Elana Hood and Jim Williams had sexual relations.

Though in the movie they never actually show them having sex, they do nothing
more than kiss. The watcher is left to infer if they’ve had sex or not.

Instead the movie shows this more as Elana’s revenge for Ben’s cheating.

Though in the book there is a graphic sex scene. “She (Elena) was pulling down
her panties with one hand and settling herself across his lap” (176). There is
obviously sex here and the motif behind it is curiosity. “She (Elena) hadn’t
known about rock and roll, she hadn’t known about racial strife, and she
hadn’t known about heavy petting in cars” (176). The scene of being in the
car was something that Elana never tried and she was curious. Ben himself was
curious about other relationships. That is what led him to Janey, sex. Not
emotional attachment like portrayed in the movie. The movie portrays a scene
where Ben and Janey are talking. Ben starts talking about his problems with
Elana and the voice from Ben (played by Kevin Kline) is very deep and emotional,
you can hear the frustration. Instead in the book the scene exists, but you
don’t pay attention to it as much. You pay more attention to the sexual
relations and the graphic nature that Moody has in the book. Paul is going about
sexual exploration in his own way in the book. Paul is attracted to Libbets and
he never had sexual relations before. The book makes the sexual attraction and
tension stronger than the movie does. Paul had his eyes on sex, being sixteen
years of age most teenagers are. Though this scene was never shown in the movie.

In fact the relationship between Libbets and Paul portrays more of the troubled
teenager instead of the sexual desires that Paul had for Libbets. The movie
shows Paul going to Libbets party. They drink a lot, smoke some pot and take
some sleeping pills. The emphasis is placed on the idea that these teenagers are
getting hardcore hammered. They amount of substance abuse they have is so much
that it’s shocking. The shock is put even more when Katie Holmes, who plays
Libbets, whispers “I’m so wasted” and then passes out on Paul’ lap.

Though the movie is vague about why Paul gets the drugs. Paul gets them to try
and drug out his friend who is at Libbets house with him so he can have sex with
Libbets. The movie also didn’t include the scene where Paul starts fondling
Libbets while she is passed out. “His erection began to rub against Libbet’s
voluptuous ass” (188). This scene is pretty graphic and shows the sexual
desperation that Paul feels. Instead the movie just shows Paul as some crazy kid
who likes to take drugs. They show this more as an escape from the family
problems that he is facing over the need for sexual action that is shown in the
book. The backbone has clearly changed, but the movie also has some other
noticeable changes for the better. For instance the start of the movie shows
Paul heading back home from New Canaan after his train got frozen over. This
part is at the end of the book, so the movie actually starts on a flashback.

Though during the trail Paul interjects certain deep sayings. He makes analogies
by using the Fantastic Four comic book, his favorite comic book. For instance he
says while the train is going to Libbets house, “All every day assumptions are
inverted invisible girl is now visible … Every person on a partially negative
zone. They dip in and out of where things shouldn’t work out they way they
should, but for some people there’s something about the negative zone that
temps them and they end up going in, all the way.” This quote makes a lot of
sense especially when it is played. The quote is played before all the
cataclysmic events happen, this is the afternoon before the key party where Paul
is heading to New York to Libbets’ house. The flashback ends with Paul coming
back from the train ride, the same scene from the beginning is played over and
Paul arrives in the station to see his puzzled family. The movie ends with Ben
putting his hands in his head and crying. The ending is symbolic in the context
of the movie. Ben feels that his affair has caused his family to break down. The
crying is a symbol of all the chaos that the family went through. It’s like
everything is done with and what have we done? That type of thought is what is
provoked in the viewer’s mind. At the same time Paul and Wendy look at each
other with shocked faces and Elena has a face of despair. Their countenance
amplifies the confusion that came after all the family problems. The director
did a similar move to the movie “Kids”, which is a movie about trouble
teenagers. At the end one of the main characters wakes up and says “Jesus
Christ what have I done?” The idea of the shocking realization after the
mistakes have been made is used well in this movie. It gives the same type of
bone chilling response from the viewer. Though, the book doesn’t end here. The
book ends with the narrator revealing himself, Paul, and him leaving his family.

“I have to leave him and his family there because after all this time, after
twenty years, it’s time I left. Finis” (279). The book shows that Paul has
grown up from his family’s confusion and his adolescent sexual nature. The
book does do a good job starting every chapter. The first few paragraphs of
every chapter start with Paul saying something about the time period that he
lived in. It really helped capture the spirit and setting of the book. The
opening is really outstanding where Paul says, “So let me dish you this comedy
about a family I knew when I was growing up. No answering machines. And no call
waiting. No Caller I.D. No compact disc recorders or laser discs or holography
or cable television or MTV. No multiplex cinemas or word processors or laser
printers or modems” (3). It’s much longer than that, but the jist of it
captures the period of the sixties, which is a completely different time period
with different morals and different problems. The movie should have started with
Paul on the train and going through that speech, it was really well written. The
book and the movie are two different things both are remarkable in their own
way. The book captures the period of adolescence and the sexual tension
extremely well. It also captures the time period of the seventies well too. The
movie has really good acting and the emotion of a family. It’s realistic and
the dialogue seems typical of an average family, which is what the movie is
trying to portray. The movie and the book are two perspectives looking at the
same story. It’s impossible to judge which is better, but instead respect them
both for their merit. The story behind both the book and movie is excellent.

What makes it extraordinarily good is that all characters seem so real. Moody
did a stellar job of humanizing the characters. This makes the story behind the
book and movie so easy to relate to. The Ice Storm in any form of media is time
well spent.


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