13 March 2000 | Steve-176
The Cider House Rules is a folksy tale about a boy from an orphanage and his coming of age. He's been trained to deliver babies at the orphanage by the benevolent Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine).
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.