Cider House Rules (1999) / Drama-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, substance abuse and some violence
Running Time: 126 min.

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Trevor Fuller, Michael Caine, Delroy Lindo
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Screenplay: John Irving (based on his novel)

Review published June 17, 2000

Cider House Rules was the big surprise in the nomination for Best Picture of 1999.  Did it deserve it?  In my opinion, not when Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, and Election were not on the list.  Those are films which are not only better, but will endure long after Cider House Rules is all but forgotten.  The problem is, those other films are a bit out of the mainstream when it comes to Oscar contention, and Cider House Rules presents just the safe alternative Academy voters like.

Cider House Rules takes place in an orphanage in Maine in the 40s.  This relates the tell of one of the orphan boys, Homer (Maguire, Joyride), who was never adopted and instead assists the director, Dr. Larch (Caine, Jaws the Revenge), in delivering babies.  Homer has a mind of his own, and won't perform the then illegal abortions, and soon wants to leave the orphanage and see the world he's never seen.  He befriends a young couple who travel to the orphanage to abort an unwanted pregnancy, and leaves to become an apple picker and see what's out there.

Of course, it's based on John Irving's novel of the same name, and being that the Academy Award-winning screenplay is adapted by Irving himself means that a faithful adaptation is presented.  It's a well-crafted film, with very good performances and solid direction by Hallstrom. 

It's also most notable for Caine's best performance in at least two decades, and may put his once stellar career back on track (I won't go so far as to say he deserved his Oscar, as I felt Tom Cruise's gut-wrenching performance in Magnolia edged him out).  Soul diva Erykah Badu (Blues Brothers 2000, House of D) impresses with her first major role, and Tobey Maguire is always interesting to watch. 

The total impact isn't always as strong as it could be given the subject matter of abortion and incest, but it's still compelling stuff nonetheless.

Qwipster's rating:

2000 Vince Leo