The Cider House Rules (1999)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
The movie was a wonderful mix of laughter, tears, and human emotion, and magnificently directed by Halle Lasström. Kudos to all those involved.
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.
Notably this boy's passage into manhood necessitates him accepting the responsibility of also performing illegal abortions! Now there's a twist. John Irving, also wrote the books The World According To Garp and The Hotel New Hampshiire, made into films of the same name, as well as A Prayer For Owen Meany which was made into the puzzling Simon Birch, a film Irving vigourously disowns. Irving subsequently, in the case of Cider House, has also written the screenplay.
The actual cider house rules are a minor element of a rambling film that is full of such minor events.They are a non-consequential, ignored set of laws meant to govern the behaviour of the workers who bunk in the cider house on an apple farm.
But life's like that, or so John Irving and his film would have you believe. It's just that usually films concentrate a little more on life's more tumultuous moments.
Young Homer Wells (our budding unlicensed doctor) is played delightfully by Tobey Maguire (Pleasantville)with a sweet smile and sleepy eyes. Those of you who prefer your actors to be more dynamic might find Maguire to be too even, but in this film his style was just the ticket.
He's one of the boys who were never chosen to be adopted at the orphanage. There are some touching scenes centred around the children in particular not being selected, hovering with their bags packed.
Homer sets off to see the world with new friends Candy (Charlize Theron) and Wally (Paul Rudd). They had attended the orphanage for an abortion.
Homer sees the sea for the first time. He learns how to pick apples and to get on with his work mates. He has a romance. And he learns how to accept responsibility for his and other's actions away from the shelter of the orphanage. And that's about it. And that's just enough.
The mood of the film accentuates a dreamy continuance; years and seasons merge. Life goes on. The apples grow. Relationships develop. The scenery is beautiful. The black labourers accept their lot.
This is life (and death) seen from the personal; a snapshot of middle, rural America; a land where you're meant to just get on with it and accept your lot.
The Cider House Rules is sensitively directed and written with an emphasis on people caring for each other. It's a bit of a weepy. Even villains are given their good sides.
Playing with tough themes for the 19th Century (really tough, like many abortions and a father sleeping with his daughter as well as some casual drug use by a country doctor) and couching everything amidst a Maine culture of doing the best thing as much as humanly possible, this movie is a sentimental masterpiece. The sentiment keeps it from being quite unqualified masterpiece, but the naturalism of the three main actors (Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire, and Charlize Theron) makes it rather convincing. And touching.
The writing is also spot on, a bit of magic starting with John Irving's highly regarded novel, and his own screenplay. As the events compound and a tight group of principal characters gets further intertwined, their believability becomes essential as events become more sensational. And it works. It's almost an American fable with moral edges like "To Kill a Mockingbird," tightly knit and with a higher ground charted above the usual trench warfare around the issues, particularly illegal abortions.
The director Lasse Hallstrom is the wild card here, and deserves unusual praise coming almost out of nowhere on this almost meaning he did have "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "My Life as a Dog" behind him. We can only hope this Swedish director crosses the border often, or at least keeps making Swedish films that get distributed here in the U.S. (I have to confess I found his more recent "Shipping News" unbearable but I know a lot of people were really moved by it.)
Beyond the story and the stars, it's really worth saying the there is a cast of secondary characters--nurses at the orphanage and a crew of African-American apple pickers at the orchard--that deserve huge praise. And then there are the smaller characters, literally, the children. Here I give the actors credit but also Hallstrom for getting them to forget the camera and be themselves. I could have watched an extended version of many scenes because being there and having so many interesting convincing people around was enough.
But of course it's better trimmed down and efficient. And hard hitting. You'll cry, or you don't have a pulse. Or you're one of the cynical, which I get. For those who have a softer side for movies, this will win you over and turn your head.
The story is about much more that the question of morality. I believe it is about life and experiences and seeing what you never saw before, yet always leaving your heart at home. It's about bonds we break, bonds we keep, and the pains of growing up. Not only is this a "picturesque" fall film, but one of those rare films that will keep you up thinking about the characters, their beliefs, and your own.
This is one of the few gems coming out of film in the last few years and I highly recommend it.
Set in Maine, USA during World War II, it tells the story of a most unusual orphanage and the truly remarkable people who run it.
Joining pragmatic and single-minded obstetrician Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), ably assisted by Nurse Edna (Jane Alexander) and Nurse Angela (Kathy Baker) all in ward uniform it soon becomes obvious that this is no ordinary orphanage.
As we follow Dr Larch into the maternity unit we first meet his young apprentice Homer Wells (Tobey McGuire) and quickly learn that not everything is as we might expect in this department either.
But as our understanding of what counts for 'normal procedure' widens we soon come to feel a genuine sense of involvement in the lives of the children who live there and the unconventional adults who care for them.
Dr Larch, as well as a great humanitarian and fan of Charles Dickens, is a drug addict and although Homer is well ahead of his years in female anatomy and physiology, he is overdue for a visit to the outside world.
An opportunity comes in the person of Flight Lieutenant Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd) and his prematurely pregnant fiancé Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron). Like impromptu parents arriving to take under their wing the eldest orphan in the establishment, Homer takes his chance to explore the world beyond the railway station - much to the distress of his surrogate father, Wilbur.
Initially lost in the foreign environment of the fruit farm run by Wally's mother Olive (Kate Nelligan), Homer soon finds himself well looked after by Arthur Rose (Delroy Lindo) who is the gang boss of the illiterate, migrant fruit-pickers. Accompanied by his unpromisingly named daughter Rose Rose (Erykah Badhu), the small group in the bunk house provide a rich learning environment for the perceptive, but naive Homer.
Homer's adventures are many and as the story twists and turns, he finds love and best of all he finds himself through his experience of the wider community he now inhabits.
There is so much more in this film that space permits to even hint at. It is comic, tragic, touching and moving. I can't recommend it highly enough.
The Cider House Rules, on the other hand, captures the essence of the novel, most notably through Michael Caine's voice-overs and dialogue. This is a credit to both Irving and Hallstroem for, respectively, an outstanding screenplay and superb directing. The Cider House Rules is now my favorite movie, and the best I've seen in years. Congratulations to Irving, Hallstroem, and the entire *perfect* cast, who are Irving's characters. I think Toby Maguire was born to be Homer Wells.
`The Cider House Rules' runs the risk and falls into the trap. The first section, set in a Maine orphanage in 1943, fascinates us not merely with the sheer novelty of the setting but with the central figure of the piece, the doctor and caregiver who becomes the focus of our attention. Brilliantly portrayed by Michael Caine, Dr. Larch is a man who provides love to a collection of children otherwise ignored and abandoned by an uncaring world. The most controversial aspect of the character involves the fact that Dr. Larch also provides abortions for women who want them at a time when the operation was still illegal and the only other alternative for many of these women was to suffer at the hands of inept practitioners of the operation. `The Cider House Rules' is certainly to be commended for tackling a subject that is virtually taboo in commercial moviemaking - albeit, it must be stated for those who do not adhere to abortion advocacy that the slant here is decidedly pro-choice despite the script's making a few gestures to the anti-abortion viewpoint early on in the film.
The center of the film is occupied by a young man named Homer Wells, a twice-rejected orphan who grows up at the orphanage almost as Dr. Larch's medical protégée and whom Dr. Larch appears to be grooming to take over his practice from him in the future. The pseudo father-son relationships between Dr. Larch and Homer and between Homer and the boys who are in his charge are conveyed with genuine emotional power and heartwarming believability. As prospective parents visit the facility, we feel deeply the desperation these children have to be adopted and to find a place where they will fit in. Conversely, we empathize keenly with the sense of sadness and personal inadequacy that inevitably accompanies each of their many rejections. Even more fascinating is the social context in which the drama plays itself out. Because of his willingness to perform the abortions, Dr. Larch's position at the orphanage has come under attack from the board of trustees that runs the institution. Thus, we are all primed for a gripping showdown between these two opposing forces and wonder how Homer will fit into the proceedings.
Unfortunately, the author John Irving pulls the rug out from under us as he decides to take his story off into an almost entirely different direction. Feeling that he is missing out on a whole vast world waiting for him beyond the confines of this remote, isolated community, Homer, rather understandably for a sheltered young man, decides to abruptly leave the orphanage and to start life anew as an apple picker when he meets a soldier whose beautiful wife has come to the doctor for an abortion and whose family is in the cider making business. Although Homer's sudden farewell results in a scene of great emotional power, as a whole torrent of conflicting emotions come flooding out of both Homer and the people he is leaving behind, the fact is that we sorely miss the orphanage once we are ripped away from it. Somehow, the scenes on the farm - and they constitute well more than half of the film's running time - never match in intensity and interest those that have come before. In fact, the least original and impressive aspect of the film is the predictable and conventional adulterous affair that Homer and the soldier's wife, Candy (Charlize Theron), indulge in when her fighter-bomber husband returns to the war. Has there ever in the movies been a case of a beautiful young wife who did not cheat on her husband the minute he went on a mission overseas? The theme of the story - as represented by the posted list of `cider house rules' that we are told by one of the characters are not too be followed because whoever wrote them didn't live in the cider house - seems to be that rules are made to be broken, although in some cases - such as incest - the violation goes so far over the edge that such an act will always result in disastrous consequences for the perpetrator. Throughout the film, the characters always seem to be abandoning the rules set out for them by society. Dr. Lance performs illegal operations, creates a phony resume and a set of counterfeit documents in an attempt to get the board to hire Homer as his assistant, and even deceives Homer into believing he suffers from a serious heart ailment to keep him out of the service. Homer himself seems to suffer little guilt as he pursues a love affair with the wife of the man who has kindly entrusted him with a job when he most needs it.
More interesting than this theme, however, is the more subtle one of parents - whether real or ersatz - learning to let go of the child in whom one has invested all one's dreams and hopes for the future. The genuine heartbreak Dr. Lance suffers as Homer leaves to find a new place in the world becomes almost palpable as written on Caine's beautifully expressive, craggy face. Unfortunately, this aspect of the film is, understandably I suppose, played out almost entirely in scenes in which letters are exchanged back and forth between the two principals and in which their feelings are conveyed in the rather undramatic form of voice-over narration. In fact, after Homer leaves, Dr. Lance becomes virtually a minor character in the story and, with his withdrawal from the scene of action, much of the emotional energy of the earlier portions drains out of the film.
Director Lasse Hallstrom deserves high praise for the fine performances he has drawn from a uniformly excellent cast. As Homer, Tobey Maguire brings a quiet, understated niceness to the pivotal role. Particularly noteworthy are the young boys who fill the early sections of the film with so much infectious life and emotion. They are cute without being adorable, touching without being cloying. Hallstrom has also captured the alternately lush, alternately bleak Maine landscape to striking effect.
`The Cider House Rules' is more a thing of bits and pieces than a fully integrated, wholly satisfying work of cinematic art. But much of it is so powerful and extraordinary that it is a film that, despite its missed potential, still manages to stay with one long after it is over.
As a movie, there were a few too many extreme close-ups for me, but overall, it flowed beautifully. And I know it's going to get a lot of flack for being this "abortion movie" (as the book did for tackling the subject), but the movie, if anything puts the whole subject in relief. Like "Dead Man Walking" did with capital punishment, this movie shows that there are no easy answers to the whole abortion question. But every once in awhile, under the right circumstances, you just gotta...break the rules.
One of the best movies of the year.
wonderful. How American Beauty beat it for the Oscar will be,
forever, a mystery. It will be remembered, and watched, for years,
while American Beauty will be long forgotten.
The story. It is very beautiful and I am glad John Irving adapted his own novel. It's a story about growing up and following your heart and it's also about how people change their opinions when they get wiser and more experienced.
The photography. This movie is full of such beautiful pictures of New England, it's breathtaking at times.
The actors. To be honest I hadn't seen many movies with the actors from this movie before. I thought from what little I had seen of Tobey Maguire that he might be a great actor and he is. Also very charismatic and like born for this part. Paul Rudd. Even though he has a rather small part he makes the best out of it and is very good. I'd like to see more of him. Michael Caine. He certainly deserved the Oscar for his work on this one. Great performance. Charlize Theron. She is the one who surprised me the most. I hadn't seen any movie of hers but Might Joe Young got a lot of promotion and it looked pretty bad to me and my opinion on Charlize was that she's probably another pretty blonde not gifted actress. But I did her wrong as she puts a heart to her character and performs very believable. Erykah Badu. I thought she was a professional singer and I think she really is, but in the movie she seemed like a professional actress. Very gifted!
The score. It's really great and a lot of people were whistling it when they left the theater.
The director. Lasse Hallström is a very good director which he also proved with Something To Talk About. I would definitely call this movie a masterpiece and can highly recommend it.
It's a 10/10.