Movie Review: The Ciderhouse Rules

By Erik Petersen
Movie Magazine International
I read “The Ciderhouse Rules” as a senior in college, nearly fifteen years ago. I ruminated on its themes, love lost, moral responsibility and abortion rights for years to come. When I heard there was going to be a film I didn’t hold much hope, the characters were too complex, the story simply couldn’t be contained in two hours plus time. How wrong I was.

This film marks the first time that author John Irving, responsible for “The World According to Garp” has also penned the screenplay. What a task he had, trimming hundreds of pages of sweet, sad musings into a mere hundred and twenty odd script pages. But he pulls it off with remarkable results.

Set in Maine during World War Two, this is a character driven film, for a story by Irving could be nothing less, so the actors are paramount here. Michael Caine plays the devoted and proud Doctor Wilbur Larch, who raises orphan Homer Wells as his own. The dedicated doctor is also a fierce addict who spends his time listening to his crackling phonograph as he drifts in and out of an ether-induced haze. Sure I could nit-pick; for instance Michael Caine’s American accent with a New Englander’s twang sounds simply strange. But it’s the holidays and this film truly warms the spirit. Caine is a craftsman constantly working and honing his skills. He’s so subtle that sometimes you overlook his brilliance. And Caine is brilliant here. The devotion he emotes for the orphans and the self-esteem he fills them with will move you.

This film is filled with great performances. Tobey Maguire plays Doctor Larch’s devoted charge and dedicated sidekick in the operating room, Homer Wells. Maguire is excellent, portraying a gentle orphan. Maguire holds your attention throughout the film. His quiet wonder suggests heartbreak. Perhaps there is no better scene than when he confronts Mr. Rose, played by Delroy Lindo. Like Doctor Larch, in the apple orchard it is Mr. Rose who is mentor to Homer Wells.

Lindo has been working steadily for several years now, building an excellent track record for himself with roles in films like “Get Shorty” and “Malcom X.” Here he eclipses himself with his role as the charming and proud Mr. Rose. In a film filled with complex characters he is the biggest riddle. As testament to his acting, when he’s finally unraveled it enrages and sickens you, ultimately leaving you wrecked.

The director of “The Ciderhouse Rules” Lasse Hallstrom is due credit for assembling such a smart and talented cast. Taking risks with untested actors like the singer Erykah Badu and rapper Heavy D paid off big time. Also the sweet and terribly sexy Charlize Theron is wonderful as Candy Kendall, the object of Homer Wells affection. When she appears on a stormy, New England beach in stockings and a tartan plaid skirt my knees turned to jelly. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
The Ciderhouse Rules
USA - 1999