You know there is one movie that you really have to see in the theatre. Terrible things will happen to you if you don't. The Cider House Rules is not that type of movie. While it has a solid supporting cast (Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo) and amazing footage of the Maine landscape, it lacks a strong lead actor in Tobey Maguire and an unfocused plot.
The movie is about a permanent orphan named Homer Wells (Maguire) who learns how to deliver babies and perform illegal abortions from Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), who runs the St. Cloud's orphanage. The two form a strong father-son bond. The majority of the story takes place during the Second World War when a pilot and his girlfriend have come to St. Cloud's for an abortion. Homer soon learns that Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd) is on leave from the army to help his mother with the apple harvest. Somehow, it strikes Homer that he should leave and become an apple picker. Wally leaves for another mission, leaving his girlfriend Candy Kendall (Theron) behind. Homer and Candy fall in love as expected. Tobey integrates himself into the apple orchard group, getting along with the boss, Mr. Rose (Lindo) and his daughter Rose Rose (Erykah Badu). However, he discovers a horrible secret, breaking up the work crew. He leaves only to return to the orphanage.
The title of the movie stems from the rules inside the boarding house on the orchard. The cider house rules are a metaphor for the rules often made by people who aren't aware of a situation--implying we should make our own.
If only the movie had done so. The message is so obvious. Homer goes as far as burning the cider house rules. The Cider House Rules forgot to let the audience figure out what the story was trying to say. Another problem with the story was the number of plots. John Irving, who wrote the book, adapted the screenplay, and although Irving does a good job of paring down the book, it seems he's too in love with some stories to let them go. As a result, the movie glosses over issues, never fully dealing with abortion or making your own rules. By far the worst part is Tobey Maguire. He doesn't react to anything, not even death. When he's angry it looks like he's sad which is the
same as when he looks happy. You get the idea.
Maguire should have taken acting lessons from Caine, who's wonderful. His Yankee accent just adds to his character and never allows the movie to fall into the tear-jerking trap that is always present when little kids are around.
Pop over to the library instead.