Tobey Maguire
Charlize Theron
Michael Caine
Paul Rudd
Delroy Lindo
Jane Alexander
Kathy Baker
Kieran Culkin
Erykah Badu
Heavy D

Lasse Hallstrom




Time: 131 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romance/Drama

Won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Caine) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Picture.

Every year before the Oscars I try to see all of the Best Picture nominees. Mainly, in order to win the various Oscar contests I participate in, but also just to see what the Academy members deem their compatriots best work of the past year. I can usually understand why certain films make the list, even if they weren't part of my top film list. Others are a mystery. CIDER HOUSE RULES is one of the latter. Maybe they wanted to include a film that didn't contain overt violence, death and mayhem. Give kudos to a more positive, life affirming film. Now that I've seen it, it angers me that other better films like THREE KINGS and MAGNOLIA were not given the spot. This is not to say that CIDER HOUSE RULES is a bad film. It just didn't say anything new or interesting, or present its' story in such a unique way, that it should be a Best Picture nominee. It's a film about making life choices and accepting yourself for who you really are. That may make great reading, but it's slow watching.

Even though the INSIDER and THE GREEN MILE were longer films, CIDER HOUSE RULES felt endless to me. Maybe because I didn't find the story all that compelling. The film, unlike the novel, focuses on the life of Homer Welles, a young man living in an orphanage in the middle of nowhere Maine. Having been twice adopted and twice returned, Homer (Maguire) becomes the surrogate son of Doctor Larch (Caine), who taught Homer everything he knows including the methods of childbirth and abortion. Even though abortions are illegal, Dr. Larch still performs them on any woman who finds her way to St. Cloud in dire straits. Though Homer, who has no official medical training, knows what to do, he cannot bring himself to perform that procedure. He wouldn't be alive if someone did it for his mother, whoever she may be. Dr. Larch wants Homer to follow in his footsteps. He's a natural doctor, but that isn't Homer's choice. He wants to see the world and begin to make his own choices, for good or bad.

"I've looked at so many women. I've seen everything, and felt nothing. But when I look at you, it hurts."

He gets his chance when Wally, a young airforce pilot and his girlfriend Candy show up at St. Cloud. While she's in with Doctor Larch, Wally and Homer strike up a conversation and a friendship is born. This is the chance Homer has been waiting for. Without a moments hesitation, he packs a bag and heads down the coast with his new friends on the adventure of his life. Dr. Larch is furious, but there's nothing he can do to stop Homer. He knows he'll be back. Wally's family owns an apple orchard and Homer soon goes to work picking fruit, grateful for the job. All is well until Wally gets called back to the war sooner than expected. Candy is distraught. She's no good at being alone and soon, she and Homer become far more than friends. The other workers in the orchard warn him to watch himself. That nothing good will come of his relationship with Candy. How can Homer resist? She's everything he never knew he wanted. He'd do anything to be with her. However, that's not meant to be. He soon discovers that he's been running from a life path that is his destiny. Though the year he spent in the Cider House seems like only a dream, he's knows it was real and that's all that matters.

Due to the subject matter, which primarily focuses on abortion and its consequences, whether a woman gets one or not, you'd think that this film would be more provocative. The dichotomy of performing abortions at an orphanage is a strong message. However, no one is talking about this aspect of the film, which is one of its driving forces. Homer accepts his calling after helping out a friend who has no other choice. Of course, the ads say nothing about it. This is a film that takes its subject matter seriously. The good thing about this film is that both views are given sway. How good is it to have an orphanage full of desperate children without families? Without hope of ever being truly loved or wanted? The film leaves that up to the viewer to decide. Though the film tries to make it Homer's choice to return to St. Cloud and follow in Dr. Larch's footsteps, the decision was never his to make. He was sleeping with another man's girl, who was just using him for companionship. He was never in control. She was only with Homer because there was noone else. He chose to stay to see what would happen, but so what. Where else was he going to go?

Homer is not a hero capable of making his own decisions, otherwise he would have left Candy and gone somewhere else. Unfortunately for us, Homer has no dreams, no motivations, except to be away from the orphanage, and frankly that's not interesting enough for me. Did his year out in the world really make Homer a better person? I guess so, but that's not good enough. Tobey Maguire tries to make Homer decisive and compelling, but he just doesn't quite make it work. The supporting cast is pretty good, also trying to make their parts worthwhile, but except for Michael Caine, they're just cookie-cutters. Caine is good as the ether-sniffing Doctor Larch, but I don't see what all the fuss is about. His nomination is much like Lynn Redgrave's last year. A whole lot of something about nothing. Yes, they were both good, but they're ALWAYS good given a decent part. The setting and music are beautiful and the kids populating the orphanage will break your heart. If you want to see a well-acted, somewhat interesting story about a young man trying to find his place in the world, you'll probably like CIDER HOUSE RULES. Otherwise, I wouldn't rush out.

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