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Nineteen ninety-nine was an outstanding year for adaptations of major
literary works, but of all the great books that came to the screen last
year, this is my favorite. John Irving's novel and adaptation is one of the
most complete stories I can remember in many years. It is poignant,
exhilarating, and astutely human in its scope, presenting a myriad of human
emotions and experiences.
Often, when a story attempts to cross genres so broadly, it fails from lack of depth or insufficiency of the writer or director to meet the variable demands of such a wide-ranging treatment. This film was a comedy, a tragedy, a romance, a human-interest story, a character study, and a period piece, and each element was excellently done.
This was all accomplished without sacrificing the philosophical and emotional depth Irving imbues in all his works. Irving weaves a strong moral into this story; that rules need to be questioned and that being human is not so easily codified. He revisits this theme repeatedly, with each character facing dilemmas regarding societal and personal rules that are difficult to reconcile in the given situations.
If there is one thing that stands out about this story, it is its human realism. These are ordinary people struggling with problems we all face. We come to have affection for almost all of them, and can identify with their tribulations. Although the story is excessively sentimental and fatalistic, it reminds us that life is complicated and doesn't always turn out the way we plan or hope.
From a filmmaking perspective, we could not have asked more from Lasse Hallstrom. Known most in the U.S. for his direction of What's Eating Gilbert Grape', Hallstrom has been making wonderful films in Europe for almost twenty years. However, this film will certainly go down as his finest work. In the featurette on the DVD, he said that when he goes to Blockbuster with his daughter and sees it on the shelf, he will have a feeling of pride; and well he should.
This motion picture was beautifully filmed with rich cinematography, breathtaking locations, and precise period props and costumes. However, the greatest achievement for Hallstrom, working in concert with Irving, was to orchestrate a large cast in such a way that no character seemed insignificant. Hallstrom took great care to do enough development of each character (often just visually without any dialogue) that he made us care for each of them. He gave the film an emotional depth and breadth that is difficult to achieve in two hours. His work with the children in the orphanage was superb, bringing forth their innocence and enthusiasm without minimizing their plight.
The acting was uniformly outstanding. Tobey Maguire infused Homer with the right combination of idealism, naiveté and inner strength to make him an unassuming but powerful lead. Charlize Theron continues to impress me with her acting ability. Besides her enchanting girl-next-door attractiveness, she showed terrific range in a character that at first seemed shallow, but later proved to be quite complex.
Michael Caine has had a legendary career spanning close to half a century. He has long been one of my favorite actors. His performance here was powerful and well deserving of the acclaim he received. Dr. Larch was an extremely complex character; egotistical, self-abusive, manipulative and recalcitrant, yet a saintly, self-sacrificing and loving crusader for the good of the children. Caine's ability to span that range was remarkable.
Finally, I have the highest praise for Delroy Lindo as Mr. Rose, the orchard foreman. Lindo's bright smile and enthusiasm created a rock solid character with charm, strength and simple wisdom. He captures our admiration immediately, and despite his despicable act, we cannot help but pity him in the end.
After having seen all the films that were nominated by the Academy for best picture last year, I have to say that this was my personal favorite. It wasn't as flashy as the rest; in fact, this was downright old fashioned in its approach. They just don't write stories like this anymore, and that's a shame. I rated it a 10/10. In its quiet way, it captured my heart.
I didn't think it was possible, but one of John Irving's most difficult books was condensed by the author himself (the last third of the book is gone) into a very very good movie. All the acting is great (especially the nice low key performances by Macguire and Caine), BEAUTIFULLY shot (in Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts), a score that fits the movie like a glove and fully realized three-dimensional characters. Plot-wise there's nothing new (young man goes out to see the world, discovers himself, etc etc) but the cast makes it seem new. They all find depth in roles that have been done before--especially Caine who speaks with a very convincing Maine accent! Bring lots of tissues with you--the movie is sad and disturbing at points (all kept in the PG-13 rating however), but it has a happy ending. Well worth seeing. See it on a BIG screen--all the beautiful shoots won't work on TV.
Despite the various good reviews of the movie, I was a bit skeptical about
the movie due to the fact that it was based on a John Irving novel. What I
found was a warm, sweet film, that was well cast and proved to be
unpredictable just when it
appeared you had it figured out. Tobey Maguire gives an excellent
performance as a man/boy seeking his place in the world. He is supported by
an excellent cast, particularly Michael Caine, despite a number of "accent"
lapses. Even though they were relegated to small roles, it was great to see
Jane Alexander and Kate Nelligan on the big screen once again. Charlize
Theron continues to show that she is not only beautiful, but can act in a
wide range of roles as well. Interesting casting as well in using
Hip-Hop/R&B artists, Erykah Badu and Heavy D in small, but important parts.
The movie was a wonderful mix of laughter, tears, and human emotion, and magnificently directed by Halle Lasström. Kudos to all those involved.
This is one of my favourite films (if not my favourite), so I cannot be
altogether objective, but I must say I find it an eye-opener. It's a
lesson on tolerance carried out by a really talented cast and crew.
Everyone fits in his/her role, although the movie is more Maguire's than anyone else's. He's definitely a natural, and while other actors in the business try to impress the audience and make the most to show their talent, Maguire acts with subtlety and thoughtfulness.
The film might seem a bit slow for some people accustomed to more pacey and epic films. However, those who have read the novel will realize just how fast everything goes.
Rachel Portman's score is truly beautiful: probably one of her best.
This movie will be looked at from many different views. I forgot about race
and religion and watched a very good movie about the human condition. John
Irving did the screenplay of his own novel. A young boy, played by Tobey
Maguire, is born and raised in an orphanage. He is taught the ways of
childbirth and abortion by the headmaster, Dr. Larch, played by Michael
Caine. The young boy wants to be more useful in life and goes on his own way
to end up working in an apple orchard and learning about lobster
The Maguire boy/man character fights with his own morals and lack of worldliness as the movie progresses. The predictable ending probably couldn't have been any better. Life happens. Bad things often happen to good people. This movie does question your thoughts of humanity.
I found raw emotion, humor and tenderness in this movie. The story is set in Maine; but actually filmed in Vermont and Connecticut too. Scenery is awesome. Maguire's timid, monotone character does take some getting used to. Caine was very good. Charlize Theron proved that not only is she beautiful, but she can act as well. Erykah Badu did extremely well in a small, but important role. This movie is worthy of its many Oscar nominations.
Some movies you enjoy at the theater once and then forget them. This film is one that you do not soon forget. Tobey Maguire has got to be one of the most gifted actors I have ever seen. His portrayal of Homer Wells is compelling. This movie will take you in during the very first scenes and won't let you go. When it's over you don't want to leave them all behind. Have you ever been so engrossed in a movie you don't realize what's going on around you. Cider House Rules is one of those rare films to come along and totally involve you in their lives. Maguire and Theron are wonderful along with the whole cast. Can't wait to see what other gifts Maguire gives us on the screen in the future.
This movie was very inspirational to me and was very hopeful. I think that
Michael Caine and Tobey Maguire did a fabulous job and some of the scenes
were so moving that I was almost in tears just because of the emotion.
Definitely not cheesy, I respect that it raises important issues, makes you
consider your values. It made me think again about everything I've always
believed, and challenged me to think beyond the obvious.
Although I haven't read the book, clearly this is an original story by John Irving, and more sentimental than I would expect from him.
Note: Not appropriate for children under 14, many friends of mine have said it should have been rated R.
Sentimental but well-told, visually beautiful and enjoyable story of an orphanage and the moral dilemmas of abortion, exploring emotional issues from leaving home and fatherhood, to first love, self-discovery and the burdens of responsibility. "Sometimes you have to break the rules to make things right."
Part of the charm of "Cider House Rules", a coming-of-age movie with Tobey Maguire at the center, is the finesse with which it presents itself as a "feel good" movie when most of the characters have precious little to feel good about. The film could easily have had a harder edge to it. However, the makers of this carefully crafted film tiptoe so adroitly around such issues as abortion, murder, infidelity, and incest as to leave the audience with an ample helping of the warm and fuzzies. The film deserves high marks for enjoyability and for bringing back the charm of Hollywood's golden years.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Cider House Rules" is the best translation of a novel to film that I've
ever seen. It must help that the novelist adapts his own work and writes the
screenplay. This novel is a large, complex work with many characters and
sub-plots. It would have been easy for the screenwriter to become bogged
down in details and losing their way. Irving doesn't. He grabs at the major
thematic thread and defines an engrossing tale of growing up and discovering
one's self and one's calling.
Set in rural Maine during World War II we follow Homer Wells, adolescent
ward of an orphanage run by Dr. Larch. Visually it's a dark foreboding
place, put emotionally full of love and happiness, excepting the sad women
who trek to the orphanage to unburden themselves of their pregnancies,
either by adoption or (illegal) abortion. Dr. Larch helps with both. Dr.
Larch has also provided Homer with an education in practical obstetrics that
would be the envy of any medical school. I don't want to go on further with
the plot, it's a sweeping tale told with great acting, camera work, and
What worries me about this near perfect film is that my views are colored by having first read the novel. The characters and locations in the movie are exactly as I visualized them. It's spooky. And this provides me with information to fill in gaps about the character's motives and drives. How big a hindrance is not having read the book? I hope not much, because I feel this is one of the best movies of 1999.
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