Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Top Notch Performances are "The Cider House Rules"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 141 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Cider House Rules (1999)
Running time:  126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, substance abuse and some violence
DIRECTOR: Lasse Halstrom
WRITER: John Irving (based upon his novel)
PRODUCER: Richard N. Gladstein
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Stapleton (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Academy Award winner


Starring: Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker, Erykah Badu, Kieran Culkin, Kate Nelligan, Heavy D, and J.K. Simmons

Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) has lived all his live in an orphanage. His de facto father, the orphanage’s lone physician and director, Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), has trained Homer to be a doctor, learning the same things that Dr. Larch needed to be effective at the orphanage. One day, the compassionate young man decides to leave his home to see the world after meeting Candy Kendall, an unmarried, pregnant young woman (Charlize Theron), and her boyfriend, Lt. Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd). Wally gets Homer a job picking apples in his mother’s orchard with a crew of itinerant workers. Here, he meets the crew chief Mr. Arthur Rose (Delroy Lindo) and his daughter Rose Rose (singer Eryka Badu), which leads him to make the most important decisions of his young life.

Directed by Lasse Halstrom, The Cider House Rules is quite simply a beautiful, well crafted, and superbly acted film. It tugs at all the heartstrings, but the film does so by honestly dealing with emotions and decisions with which the audience can identify. More than anything, it is about making choices and sometimes having to make them when the obvious direction goes against personal beliefs. John Irving adapted his novel of the same title for the screen, and the story readily embraces the idea that a person can do something that makes life better for someone other than himself, even at the cost of personal satisfaction. This could have resulted in a film that was very dry and turned off the audience, but the director and writer weave the situation with such sincerity, grace, wit, and charm that we can’t help but see their view.

The cast is key to this because each actor helps to make his character sympathetic. When the audience sympathizes they will be open to a particular character’s ideas even if it’s counter to what they believe. And The Cider House Rules, which deals with issues of reproductive freedom, adoption, incest, rape, abortion, infidelity, certainly needs likeable characters to make the film enjoyable and not just tolerable.

Maguire is a very good actor; a pleasant young fellow with boyish good looks, he can win the viewer over. He literally carries this film on his back. He does have a kind of facial tick, something like a slight smirk, that seems to pop up at inopportune moments, but otherwise, he endows his characters with a young everyman sort of charm that is both winning and well done.

Seemingly the hardest working actor in the Western world, Michael Caine turns in one of the best performances of his career and earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role. While Homer’s life seems destined to mimic Dr. Larch’s, Caine’s turn as the doctor sets the philosophical agenda for this film, and he’s more than up to the challenge.

The Cider House Rules is a very good film, and is certainly a high achievement in the pantheon of film rudely called tearjerkers. More than just another weepy, it stands out as an attempt at really conveying something about the human condition, while still being very entertaining.

8 of 10

2000 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Michael Caine) and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (John Irving); 5 nominations: “Best Picture” (Richard N. Gladstein), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (David Gropman-art director and Beth A. Rubino-set decorator), “Best Director” (Lasse Hallström), “Best Editing” (Lisa Zeno Churgin) and “Best Music, Original Score” (Rachel Portman)

2000 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Michael Caine

2000 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Erykah Badu); 1 nomination: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actor” (Delroy Lindo)

2000 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Michael Caine) and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (John Irving)


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