6 – The Cider House Rules

John Irving’s novel about the tribulations of Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), a young man who lives all of his childhood in a relatively placid Maine orphanage, is in some ways a masterpiece of cinematic storytelling, although it’s nearly sunk by the rather bland, Forrest Gumpishness of its lead character.

Homer Wells is given up by his natural parents as a baby, and for one reason or another is never adopted. Because of his long tenure at the orphanage, the home’s good doctor (Michael Caine, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work here) teaches him how to be a doctor, and the two share many of the child-rearing duties at the orphanage. Assisted by Nurses Edna (Jane Alexander) and Angela (Kathy Baker), the duo perform countless deliveries of unwanted babies. There’s a flip side to this issue, of course – the unwanted pregnancies that are aborted. Homer can’t bring himself to perform the abortions, but Dr. Larch can. While the abortion issue isn’t central to the plot of the movie, it is an integral piece to Homer’s own coming-of-age. At some point, Homer must fly the coop and live life on his own, and here is where the comparisons to characters such as Forrest Gump or even Robin Williams’ Garp come into play. Homer leaves the orphanage in due time, but he also leaves behind his family, including his fatherly superior, Dr. Larch, who loves the boy so much that he doesn’t want him to go out into the world and be a failure when he knows Homer could stay at the orphanage and “be useful.”

This sweeping tale checks in at over 2 hours, but it’s not a yawner by any stretch. Homer is forthright, honest, and above all respectful, all qualities sadly lacking in many people today. (Luckily, this film takes place in the first half of the 20th century, so those characteristics don’t seem out of place.) Caine is amazing in his role, completely dropping his famous Cockney accent in favor of a stentorial New England dialect. Once you get past hearing him sound like an American, you’ll be fine – but it’s a little jarring at first. One could almost make an argument that Caine could have been up for Best Actor, but this is clearly a movie about Homer, not Dr. Larch.

As for Maguire…. Well, there’s something to be said for subtle performances, to be sure, but there’s also something to be said about underplaying a roll too much. Maguire simply is miscast. He’s earnest, but there’s not much expression to be read on his face. To put it succintly, he’s more than underwhelming in the lead role. The antithesis of Maguire is the lovely and VERY talented Charlize Theron, a young woman who comes to the orphanage to have an abortion. Theron is stunning, but what really grabs you is her magnificent, moving, and endearing performance. This is an actress to keep your eyes on, ladies and gentlemen. She’s going to be a very hot commodity soon, even hotter than she is now.

PRO: Michael Caine, excellent story, great cinematography, Charlize Theron, very fine supporting cast

CON: Tobey Maguire. Who cast HIM, anyway?

The Cider House Rules: 8

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2 Responses to “6 – The Cider House Rules”

  1. Home Says:

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  2. frothy Says:

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