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An examination of the film ice storm

The 3-Act Paradigm at Work: The Ice Storm written by James Schamus The Ice Storm is a family drama set against a particular time in America, the early 1970s, when some in the middle class was experimenting with sex in a carry-over from the 60s.

Shaped with rich images and ensemble stories, the movie has the feel of "an art film" and its structure is looser than in many films -- but clear and strong nontheless. Structural Analysis Hook 0 min. A visual hook, an image: The train slowly picks up speed. This image is at the heart of the meaning of our story, a visual metaphor for it. Complication 3-4, 12, 16 min. The focus is on a family: We meet each early and each presents a complication: The wife rejects the husband's amorous advance 12 min.

The daughter shoplifts 16 min. Call to Action 12 min.

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The husband's journey drives the story. With this focus, the complication above also is the call to action, his attempt to reestablish a sexual relationship with his wife.

As we shall see, there are reasons for her rejection. Act One Plot Point 37 min. Finally his wife accepts an amorous advance, and they make love. This is unusual enough that the daughter later takes note of the wrinkled sheets. In this dysfunctional marriage, the "extraordinary" world is what in a normal marriage would be ordinary.

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Midpoint Plot Point 54, 62 min. The wife learns of her husband's affair. And his lover rejects him. They are scheduled to go to a holiday party, where "the key game" is going to be played a woman goes home with the man whose keys she draws from a bowl. Act Two Plot Point 85, 92 min. The husband is drunk at the key game. When his recent lover draws the keys of a young man, he tries to object and falls over.

His wife goes off with the husband of his recent lover but returns to the house after quick sex to help her husband. They must talk tomorrow. Does their marriage have a future?

Climax and Resolution 92-106 min. The son of the couple involved above the recent lover, the quickie partner gets electrocuted in an ice storm the night of the key game.

An examination of the film ice storm

The husband finds him. He takes him home. Then they go to pick up their own son, returning from his date in NY where his roommate showed up to ruin it but delayed by the ice storm. The image that began the movie is this moment, the train starting after a power shortage, the return home. In the car, seeing his son alive, realizing what he has and how much his behavior has put in jeopardy, the husband breaks down and cries. The ice of his heart has begun to melt.

An examination of the film ice storm

The film is over. Notes This film is based on Rick Moody's novel, which also explains its looser structure -- adaptations almost always have less focus than an original film story since the writer tries to include as much as possible from the original source.

This is a dark comedy -- there are many very funny, satiric moments -- and the journey of the husband, from aloofness to grief and a realization of how precious his family is to him, keeps this story from too much sprawl.