Runtime: 2 Hours
and 5 Minutes
"Good night, you princes of Maine, you kings of New England."
It's the early 1940's, war is raging around the world and in his tiny
little nook of the world Dr. Wilbur Larch delivers these words of
inspiration to the tenants of the orphanage he oversees. He says these
words, because it makes the children feel good. He says these words,
because it makes him feel good.
Dr. Larch (Michael Caine) has always made a special effort to avoid
becoming to attached to the children, but their was one that he couldn't
help but grow to love. The child was one, who was adopted and eventually
brought back to the orphanage for one reason or another on a number
of occasions. His name was Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) and Dr. Larch
would no longer allow him to be adopted by anyone. Instead he chose
to raise Homer as if he were his very own son.
Over the years Dr. Larch passed his knowledge on to Homer. This involved
everything from delivering children to performing abortions. Homer
never cared for the abortion end of the deal and made his feelings
known to Dr. Larch. Dr. Larch would argue his side of the case and
nothing would be resolved. It was always thought that one day Homer
would take Dr. Larch's place at the orphanage when the time was right.
That was before Candy (Charlize Theron) and Wally (Paul Rudd) came
to the orphanage.
Wally is on leave from the military and Candy is in need of an abortion
when they arrive. The procedure is done the same as any other, but
seeing the young soldier's car, Homer gets happy feet. He views this
as his chance to get out and see the world. Against Dr. Larch's wishes,
he hitches a ride and finds work picking apples at Wally's orchard.
He has never picked apples before, but he learns the ropes from Mr.
Rose (Delroy Lindo) and his crew of migrant workers.
Shortly after he arrives Wally is called back into service and he
entrusts Homer to look over things while he is gone. Homer vows to
do so and goes about his business, but eventually romance, his past
and things left unsaid will have a profound effect on the outcome
of this wonderfully woven tale.
"The Cider House Rules" manages to tackle some serious,
almost taboo, subjects while being a gorgeous film to behold. The
film delves into the darkness of society by addressing the issues
of infidelity, incest and abortion. It never gets preachy about it's
subjects. It merely presents us with characters who lie on both sides
of the fence on the respective subjects and allows us to contemplate
the arguments being presented, so that we might form our own opinions.
To offset the dark underpinnings of the story is some of the most
beautiful cinematography you are ever likely to see.
The beauty of this film is found in the simplicity of the story. It
is the story of a young man coming of age in a time when young men
had to grow up much faster than usual due to the war that had the
world in it's grip. There was a film from 1999 that was all about
finding beauty in the world, but it never captured beauty the way
that "The Cider House Rules" does. Fall has never looked
as delicious as it does here. The brilliant color of the trees, the
homey feel of the apple orchard and even the wintry landscape surrounding
the orphanage enclose the viewer in a world of visual splendor that
is difficult to leave.
It is a difficult world to leave, because it is a place of warmth
and comfort that is made that way by the people that inhabit it.
Dr. Larch is the sort of grandfatherly type of person that one would
expect to find if they went calling upon an orphanage during this
period in time. He is portrayed with unmistakable clarity by Michael
Caine ("Quills") in a performance
that garnered him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He is
a man who works himself so hard, caring for the unwanting mothers
of the world and their unwanted children, that the only way he can
find sleep is by using the ether that he uses to render his patients
unconscious. It is a role with many layers to it and Caine conveys
them all with class in a performance that is very worthy of praise.
His pseudo-adopted son Homer is portrayed with a wonderful air of
naivete by Tobey Maguire ("Pleasantville"). There are many
moments when his closeted upbringing shows itself in his interactions
with the world away from the orphanage. It is a fine performance that
relies greatly on his character's relationship with Candy, whose character
is deliciously performed by Charlize Theron ("Reindeer Games").
Charlize is a woman with the sort of timeless beauty that lends itself
perfectly to roles such as this one. She has the look of a young woman
growing up in the 1940's and she has the wholesomeness of a woman
that any man would be proud to bring home to meet mom. On top her
appearance, Charlize is also a fine actress. Her role is that of a
woman struggling with her emotions on many levels. She loves Wally,
but finds it hard to be faithful to him while he is overseas and finds
comfort in the arms of Homer, whom she also professes to love. She
is a woman who has a hard time making decisions, so eventually people
end up making the decisions for her.
Adding to the emotion arc of the film is Delroy Lindo (Can also be
seen slumming in the remake of "Gone
In Sixty Seconds") in the role of Mr. Rose. Delroy has always
been a fine character actor, whose presence I welcome whenever I see
him onscreen, but he has never been as good as he is here. On the
surface he is a good man with a strong work ethic and attention to
detail. He is a man who commands respect from those who work with
him and he eventually receives in one way or another. Below the surface,
however, Mr. Rose is struggling with his own demons. He often lets
his emotions get the better of him in both his personal life and work
life. He gives into temptations that should not be given into and
over time comes to the realization that there is a price to pay for
Weakness is not something that this film suffers from. It flows from
one scene to the next with precision, maximizing the effectiveness
of every moment and every shot. It is carried by it's lush cinematography
and brilliant performances, including a fine debut performance by
Erykah Badu as Mr. Rose's daughter Rose.
In watching this film I felt a sense of relief. I think it had something
to do with the comforting thought that there really are people in
the world like Dr. Larch and Homer Wells. The sort of selfless people
who will put the needs of others above their own interests, at least
for the most part.
It is this feeling of comfort coupled with all of the other masterfully
executed elements that make "The Cider House Rules" everything
one would expect of an "American Classic" and a whole lot