Film: The Cider House Rules

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Film:

The Cider House Rules

Director: Lasse Hallström
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Distributor: Miramax

In adapting his own novel The Cider House Rules for the screen, John Irving sacrificed at least some of the depth and detail that made his humanitarian themes resonate, while the film—directed with Scandinavian sobriety by Lasse Hallström—is often vague about the complex issues (abortion, incest, responsibility) that lie at its core. Allowing for this ambiguity (which is arguably intentional), the film retains much of what made Irving’s novel so admired, and like Hallström’s earlier feature What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, it’s blessed with a generous,…

Reviews

Amazon.com

In adapting his own novel The Cider House Rules for the screen, John Irving sacrificed at least some of the depth and detail that made his humanitarian themes resonate, while the film—directed with Scandinavian sobriety by Lasse Hallström—is often vague about the complex issues (abortion, incest, responsibility) that lie at its core. Allowing for this ambiguity (which is arguably intentional), the film retains much of what made Irving’s novel so admired, and like Hallström’s earlier feature What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, it’s blessed with a generous, forgiving spirit toward the mistakes, foibles, and desires of its many engaging characters.

Central to the story (set during World War II) is Homer (Tobey Maguire), a young man raised in a Maine orphanage, where the ether-sniffing Dr. Larch (Michael Caine) rules with benevolent grace while performing safe but illegal abortions. To expand his horizons, Homer follows a young couple (Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd) to do fieldwork on an apple farm, where his innocent eyes are opened to the good and evil of the world—and to the realization that not all rules are steadfast in all situations. By the time Homer returns to the orphanage, The Cider House Rules—which features one of Caine’s finest performances—is memorable more for its many charming and insightful moments than for any lasting dramatic impact. Is Homer fated to come full circle in his kindhearted journey? It’s left to the viewer to decide. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

Adapted from John Irving’s evocative novel with rare sensitivity, a tender and poignant drama stirs viewers’ emotions as few films have in recent years. It begins during the early ‘40s in a ramshackle Maine orphanage, where Dr. Larch (Michael Caine) cares for unwanted children and performs illegal abortions. His oldest charge and reluctant protégé, Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), yearns to make his own way in the world and begins by hiring out as an apple-picker for nearby orchard owner Wally (Paul Rudd). After Wally goes off to war, his beautiful girlfriend, Candy (Charlize Theron), succumbs to loneliness and teaches Homer some life lessons Dr. Larch had overlooked. Caine is superb in his Oscar-winning role, but all the performances are wonderful—Maguire brings sweetness and depth to his character, while is Theron is utterly believable as a free-spirited dream girl. Director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog) recreates the period beautifully and exhibits a keen understanding of class distinctions between orphaned Homer, well-to-do Wally, and the itinerant workers led by Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo). Filled with warmth, humor, and pathos, The Cider House Rules is an enormously uplifting, life-affirming movie. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Album:The Cider House Rules: Music from the Motion Picture

The Cider House Rules: Music from the Motion Picture

Rachel Portman

With its idyllic New England locales and multiple themes, director Lasse Hallstrom’s version of John Irving’s book presented composer Rachel Portman with some challenging, if deceptively simple, choices. Portman’s main theme (imagine a pastoral Copland waltz), stated by solo piano and then orchestra, sets us firmly in the tranquil Maine countryside, while permutations of it continually shade the film’s various dramatic intentions. It’s a simple, time-honored device, yet one that carries the implicit danger of Repetitive Schmaltz Syndrome. But Portman’s melodic…

Book:Cider House Rules

Cider House Rules: A Novel

John Irving

First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is John Irving’s sixth novel. Set in rural Maine in the first half of this century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch—saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud’s, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr. Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted.

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