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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.
  • 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 fishing.

    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.
  • gbheron25 February 2001
    Warning: 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 scoring.

    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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This film has all the ingredients to turn out as simply magnificent. Michael Caine works his usual brilliance, Charlize Theron is gorgeous and believable, and Toby Maguire grows up both on the film and off. The Rachel Portman score is both haunting and comforting throughout the film and is the perfect "back drop" to fall in New England.

    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.
  • I found this movie not only well written, screen-played, played and edited, but I also found it had a true message of goodness in it, which goes beyond the nice story that you might want to dive into from time to time. It is definitely a very rich story. I think it is difficult to separate both notions presented by the movie: morality (is abortion a good or a bad thing, and from which point of view as both are present), and equality between Men, in terms of the racial issue. The movie takes place in the 40's, just before the US declared war to Japan. The work on how Afro-Americans should be treated had not yet really started, and they were still not very much considered as real "equals" to the whites. The "rules" which are part of the movie title in the first place, are imposed on the Afro-Americans who work in the Cider House, assuming they are stupid and unable to behave responsibly and with common sense. It is about the laws imposed on Men by other Men who do not necessarily understand the implications and the situations of those who have to comply with those rules. That leads naturally to the question of the Law : is the Law only a list of rules that we must obey without questioning at any time, or might it sometimes be a more blurry notion that sensible individuals might have to work out for themselves according to the circumstances? Or can we take into account that Life itself , and "chance", sometimes lead to another form of Justice, as it eventually happens at the end? To me, it is a real "must see". I would recommend parents to offer it to their teenagers as a means to let them build their own vision of the world.... Yes! it goes that far!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had this plan, you see. I would read "The Cider House Rules" and, if I enjoy it, I would watch the film, which I knew had won 2 Oscars. The plan fulfilled, I can tell you now that I hated the movie almost as much as I loved the book. This is a classic case of "great book - bad movie". John Irving's adaptation of his own book is probably the next worst case after "The Magus", a movie made in the late 60's based on the novel of the same title by John Fowles.

    Indeed, what would you think of a book adaptation for the screen if it - skims the surface of the plot barely touching the real story; - crams the first half of the book into the first 10 minutes of movie time (with the cast and credits popping up at appropriate intervals), throws half of the characters out of the story (including the most interestingly controversial one – Melony), dwells for one and a half hours on an uninspired love-story line and just omits the last third of the book; - compacts 20 (well written!) years of the main character's life into an incomprehensible gooey mass of disconnected events, unmotivated actions and lackluster emotions and never allows the protagonist grow beyond confused boyhood (the original book ends when he is forty!).

    I felt sorry of John Irving. Honestly! I would have never touched the book had I seen the film first. Fortunately, my plan was in reverse order.

    My recommendation to everyone: if, for any reason, you liked the film, throw your disc away and invest in the book. That is something you will REALLY enjoy.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When a film takes place in two entirely different settings - involving almost two entirely different sets of characters - it inevitably runs the risk that one of the two sides will generate more interest than the other and that the movie itself will appear to break into halves of unequal quality. The end result is that such a film may seem to be disjointed and lacking in the cohesive unity necessary for any work of genuine art.

    `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.
  • The Cider House Rules (1999)

    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.
  • I'm pleased that a movie adaptation of a John Irving novel has finally underscored the power and poignancy of his narrative voice. Previous movies (notably The Hotel New Hampshire and The World According to Garp) seem to have had an unbalanced focus on the comedic elements. While these are mostly accurate and entertaining, Irving doesn't write for the purpose of being funny. He helps us to observe aspects of relationships and life in unique ways that we often find funny. I find that his stories, in absence of his narrative voice, miss the point (his point).

    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.
  • Okay, corny summary...but I really believe it's true! I've never read the book The Cider House Rules, but this movie seemed to have really touched on something special. Granted, Tobey Maguire played this part exactly as he'd played "Pleasantville," but I think it fit the character. Michael Caine was simply wonderful - and aside from Robin Williams' for "Good Will Hunting," I've never been happier to see anyone win an Oscar. I could not for the life of me understand the hype over "American Beauty" with this movie in the running - it was more heartfelt, had a much better script and a better message overall, and most importantly, left me with a good feeling leaving the theater. The bittersweet predictability of the ending line was a wonderful incentive to cry. See this movie if you haven't already, and if you have, see it again.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Thoroughly depressing. Leaves one with a feeling of the futility of life.

    Within the span of 2 hours you get to see an orphan die, several young women get an abortion, the betrayal of a kind friend, a man returning from war crippled, a black man impregnating his daughter, a daughter killing her father, a young man who goes back to his roots to impersonate a doctor, and finally a doctor with an addiction who overdoses and dies. All main characters by the way. Very bleak, overtly political, and very "preachy".

    Typical Hollywood excess--everything but the kitchen sink. Destroys any point the movie was trying to make. A movie that tries desperately to be profound but comes off as emotionally manipulative.
  • Ralph-389 September 2000
    This film is propaganda at its worst. It is no more than a cartoon. The plot is manipulative and the arguments are simplistic. Unless you are on the pro-choice abortion band wagon, pass this film up. There are no points to be made that haven't been better handled elsewhere. It is amazing that Hollywood could put this picture forward as one of the best films of the year. There ought to be regulations on campaign finance for the Oscars.
  • Upon hearing so much praise for this title for so long I was excited to watch it with my husband. I was sorely disappointed in the moral and ethical themes of this movie. Supporting abortion is fairly thrust upon the viewers. Pro-life views are seen as ignorant and naive. The apparent message of this film is that "we make our own rules", that if one feels that a rule is unjust or unneeded, it can be discarded. Pro-Life and Pro-Choice advocates alike should be able to agree that this theme is absurd as well as dangerous. The audience is also made feel that lust equals love and to feel sympathetic towards a woman who is cheating on her boyfriend while he is away fighting overseas because she "isn't good at being alone." Cry me a river. As we also find out at the end of the movie, Michael Caine's character has falsified Homer's medical records in order to disqualify him for military service service. How many other parents in America would have liked to give inaccurate x-rays to the Army in order to keep their sons home safe? This film was a disgrace.
  • Warning: Spoilers

    I watched this film because critics had lauded it so highly, and because one of my favorite actors, Michael Caine appears in it. Mr. Caine does fine work, as I suppose everyone in the cast does, but the characters and story line were so annoying, irritating, selfish and stupid, I could barely sit through it.

    Even the children at the orphanage were not exactly speckled pups in a little red wagon.

    First we have Michael Caine's character Dr. Larch, who is basically a father figure to Toby Maguire's character Homer Wells. Now on the surface Dr. Larch appears to be almost an angel--here is this saintly Dr. caring for these unwanted orphans, and being kind and loving. But Dr. Larch wants to browbeat Homer into also being a doctor, and we get the distinct impression that is not necessarily what Homer wants to do.

    Dr. Larch also has a problem dealing with reality when it comes to the orphanage children. These children are so protected from reality they have no concept of it whatsoever. When a young child dies, Dr. Larch secretly buries him, and the other children instead of attending a funeral and coming to terms with the fact there is such a thing as human death--are lied to, and told the deceased child has been adopted.

    I wondered, toward the end of the film, when an adult personage who worked at the orphanage passed away, if the kids were going to be told the adult had been adopted!

    Then we have Charlize Theron, as Candy Worthington, and her boyfriend Wally--who apparently are too stupid to use birth control--and too selfish and irresponsible to marry and become parents. But not to worry, Dr. Larch will solve that little problem that's getting in their way of a good time.

    Homer decides to suddenly leave the orphanage and go pick apples instead of becoming a doctor at the orphanage, which is what Dr. Larch plans him to be--never mind that he has no schooling and has not served any kind of internship at a hospital.

    Wally goes off to war, and Candy is left behind with a bad case of "hot pants." Well there's Homer all handy, ready and willing-- faithfulness is not part of Candy's make up, and Toby feels no loyalty to his friend Wally--so soon he and Candy are rolling in the hay. I fully expected her to have a second pregnancy and abortion.

    The love scenes between Candy and Homer were definitely nothing I'd care to ever have to see again. Toby McGuire is a fine actor, but he is about as far from being a romantic leading man as you could get. His character, quite frankly, came across as an ignorant,homely nerd.

    We also have a little side story with some blacks who work at the apple farm. Now I'm quite familiar with migrant Mexicans traveling with the crops--but this is the first time I've ever seen or heard of any migrant crop and fruit picking blacks traveling with the crops.

    Get the barf bag ready because here comes the worst part of this movie--Rose Rose, one of the black migrants, gets pregnant. And just guess who Daddy is. What makes this so barf-worthy, however, is how they make this man, who is guilty of completely selfish lust--turn into this sacrificing, caring, sensitive person. Character reality flew completely out the window on that one.

    Then we learn that Wally is now paralyzed from the waist down. Good old Homer is more than ready to marry Candy, but no, she may shag everything in sight, but Wally is her one true love--yeah, right! One can only wonder how someone with the kind of sex drive Candy obviously has, is going to be able to deal with a husband, whom we are led to believe, has become totally impotent. But that's just one more stupid decision a character makes in this movie.

    Definitely THE worst film I have seen in some time.

    I voted it ONE star because I could not vote anything lower.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    *SPOILERS - DON'T READ IF YOU WANT TO SEE THIS MOVIE* What I *don't* understand about this movie is how Erykah Badu and Heavy D (not to mention the talented Delroy Lindoy) got suckered into making this movie, which is essentially a pro-choice propaganda tract which plays the race card in the most atrocious way. In order to make a fairly reasonable point about abortion, (ignoring anyone's personal stand for the moment), Updike and all use a group of migrant black orchard workers to make a point: when the rules make no sense, you have to break the rules. Now here's the sticker - the rules the white protagonist has to break, against his original conscience, are ones which make him seem compassionate. The rules broken by the black characters are incest-taboos. My jaw dropped lower and ever-lower as I struggled to keep both my incredulity and my anger in check. From Delroy Lindo's character repeating over and over again: "Not our rules", from the "noble savage/savage negro" portrayals, to the whole 'white man's burden' plot, there are only two questions:

    1. Why in the world would any black actor not desperate for their SAG card get involved in this, and 2. How did this piece of upper-class liberal racism win any awards?

  • john-310921 January 2006
    Lasse Hallstrom's (1999) film is based on John Irving's semi-autobiographical novel.

    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.
  • As someone raised in New England, I was thrilled to find a film that faithfully celebrates the sly, ironic humor we grow back there. The cast was brilliant, and like many people, I wish Michael Caine's role could have been extended. Also, socially, it's wonderful to see a complex, tragic subject like abortion dealt with so intelligently, and like the tremendously difficult issue that it is.
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