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The Ice Storm Book vs Movie Critique
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. 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 mislea
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