The Cider House Rules Review
By Joe Lozito
More Orphan than Not
There's a reason that soap operas are so popular. They shamelessly cater to the basest emotions in all of us. "The Cider House Rules", adapted by John Irving from his novel, is like a bouillabaisse of all the best soap opera elements - orphans, abortion, debilitating injuries and, of course, death. They are all mixed together in the story of Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), a boy raised in an orphanage who leaves the nest to experience life in all its glory in the big, bad woodlands of 1940s Maine.
Homer's rites of passage are more or less predictable from the start, but the film is held together by the unwaveringly earnest performances of its cast and the beautiful camerawork of director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog).
No one plays naïveté quite like Mr. Maguire, with his wide, dewy eyes and a thin smirk that seems to convey a hint of playfulness through its innocence. As Homer Wells, Mr. Maguire must age both physically and emotionally over the course of this coming of age story. By the end of the film, he does seem to have grown in years. He is a surefooted young actor who, along with Michael Caine, is the emotional center of the film. Mr. Caine, struggling with a New England accent, brings many subtle nuances to the character of Wilber Larch M.D, the head of the orphanage.
The relationship between Homer and Wilbur and some fine supporting performances - including Delroy Lindo, who turns the role of an abusive father on its ear, and Erykah Badu as his daughter - raise the film beyond the sum of its soap opera parts.