The Cider House Rules
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Review by Matt Heffernan
Author John Irving has had several of his books brought to the silver screen, including The World According To Garp and A Prayer For Owen Meany (as Simon Birch). Filming The Cider House Rules, however, has been a long personal effort, including writing the screenplay himself. Maybe he should have just left it as a novel.
In Maine during World War II, Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is outgrowing the orphanage he has spent his life in. His only family has been the staff there, particularly Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), who has taught Homer how to be an obstetrician. Not only does Dr. Larch deliver babies, he also performs abortions, which Homer has learned to do as well. Homer doesn't approve of the illegal practice, so he leaves with a young couple who has their problem fixed.
The formerly pregnant woman is Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron), and her boyfriend is Lt. Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd), a pilot temporarily on leave. Wally gets Homer a job at his family's apple orchard, picking with a group of black migrant workers, led by Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo). When Wally is called back into action, Homer becomes closer to Candy, whose father is a lobsterman. Homer finds work there, too, and finds himself falling in love with Candy.
Dr. Larch did not want Homer to leave the orphanage, and neither did I. Those early scenes are quite good, especially with Caine, who speaks in an American accent for the first time. Once Homer starts picking apples and catching lobsters, the film goes straight downhill. It's really just a conventional "forbidden love" story, with nothing very captivating or original.
Maybe the film would have been better with more texture from the novel, but at over two hours it didn't have room for any. The last half-hour really starts to drag, up until an embarrassingly clichéd ending. One would think that director Lasse Hallström just gave up on this film about halfway through it.
I hope that at least Irving was pleased with the result. He has a quick walk-on as a train conductor, and he was even nominated for a Golden Globe for his screenplay. Of course, it is up against American Beauty and Being John Malkovich, so I see the nomination as just a little recognition for a major author.
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The Cider House Rules (1999)
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan