The Cider House Rules

1999

The Cider House Rules

Critics Consensus

The Cider House Rules has wonderful performances, lovely visuals, and an old-fashioned feel.

71%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 112

77%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 53,469
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Movie Info

John Irving scripted this screen adaptation of his 1985 novel. Set during World War II, The Cider House Rules concerns Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), an orphan who spent most of his childhood at the St. Cloud Orphanage in rural Maine, where he grew up under the strong but affectionate care of Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine). Larch has passed along his medical education to Homer, and the young man helps the doctor care for abandoned children and the newborn babies of unwed mothers; however, Homer refuses to assist Larch with the illegal abortions that he performs on the side; Homer has moral objections to abortion, while Larch believes in the rights of the individual and sees it as his duty to keep women in need away from dangerous incompetents. Wally Worthington (Paul Rudd), an air-force pilot, brings his girlfriend Candy (Charlize Theron) to St. Cloud for an abortion, and Homer decides to go with them when they leave, hoping to see the world; however, the three end up going no further than the state line, where Wally's mother (Kate Nelligan) runs an apple orchard and cider mill, and Candy's family traps lobsters. When Wally ships off to battle, Homer grows closer to Candy, and the two fall in love. But their idyllic life at the cider mill is interrupted when Rose Rose (Erykah Badu), a field worker at the orchard, becomes pregnant and her father, cider-house foreman Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo), turns out to be the father of her unborn child. This news coupled with the death of Dr. Larch, forces Homer to take a long look at both his moral principles and his future. Rapper Heavy D appears in the supporting cast as Peaches. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for The Cider House Rules

All Critics (112) | Top Critics (26) | Fresh (80) | Rotten (32)

Audience Reviews for The Cider House Rules

  • Sep 05, 2014
    Orphans, a world war, lost souls, tragedy, and yet an underlying current of hope and love, Cider House Rules is a drama that has it all. Revisiting it 15 years after its release date, I couldn't help but be impressed by the shear ambition on screen and the resulting emotions. Set during World War II, Cider House Rules tells the story of a young man, Homer Wells, who spent his entire life in an Orphanage, seemingly groomed as the successor for the caretaker, only to embark on a journey of his own. Uniquely, the best thing about Cider House Rules is the score. It is simply brilliant, resonating deeply, and being enchanting, sad, and reminiscent. This really sets the stage for the film, which has a bit of a vintage feel to it. There are many story lines introduced, with Homer anchoring the entire story. The films focus seems to be not so much on individual stories, rather the tapestry they form, and how these relationships form to create such a fantastical, yet brutal world. The performances are very strong all around, each adding their own layer to the narrative. I would count this is perhaps Tobey Maguire's best performance, with excellent chemistry between him and Charlize Theron. Director Lasse Hallstrom fills the screen with beautiful visuals, and a strong pace. It doesn't feel manipulative, rather it feels inquisitive in its approach, and non-judgmental in its observations. Overall, one could say that Cider House Rules does flirt with melodrama. However, I found it to be largely authentic in its execution, and often moving. I would have liked more time to be spent with the characterizations, though the film has many big personalities to explore. Very Strong 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 29, 2014
    Don't tell me you haven't thought of it, because I can't believe no one is joking about how much that title sounds like a generic frat house chant or something. People probably don't want to, because they don't really want to make light of an orphanage or something, and because it couldn't possibly be all that exciting of a frat house if it's themed around something as relaxing as cider or something. Well, Tobey Maguire is here, so the excitement behind that frat probably fluctuates, looking at how quickly Maguire can go from subdued to all screamy and whatnot. Eh, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't expect all that much excitement out of a frat run by Michael Caine, because as charming as he is, and as much as he works on his American accent, he's just so British that he can sure dry a room up, even without Lasse Hallström's presence. That Swede can make some pretty slow films, but boy, he knows how to make them good, or at least he did with something as solid as "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". Now, that isn't to say that this film isn't good, but it is to say that Hallström had taste when he dulled things down a bit, at least until that taste took a sudden drop once he ostensibly started reading Nicholas Sparks books. Yeah, "Dear John" was decent, but forget "Safe Haven", unless it's a safe haven for children, because Hallström seems to know what he's doing there, at least up to a point. Very '90s in look, structure and overall feel, this film is formulaic enough in direction, and when it comes to the story itself, as worthy as it is, it's rarely anything all that new, being nothing short of predictable, even in concept. Nevertheless, this interpretation of such a story gives it its all, perhaps too much so, as the film ambitiously bloats its dramatic narrative with too many characters and layers to keep up with, to the point of focal unevenness which derives from jarring alternations between the story of Tobey Maguire's Homer Wells character finding his adult life in the real world, and the story of Michael Caine's Dr. Wilbur Larch character struggling with personal struggles and the struggles of the orphans he cares for. All the layers of this film are worthy, make no mistake, but there's just way too many of them for the film to keep consistent with its structure, and yet, bloating doesn't end with the material, as filler also has its share of overblown spots that aren't draggy to the point of monotony, or even to the point of slowing down momentum all that glaringly, yet remain draggy to the point of moments of aimlessness. The aimless spells aren't exactly helped by Lasse Hallström's trademark dry storytelling, which, like it usually is, is controlled enough to sustain, not simply a certain degree of entertainment value, but a reasonably brisk pace through and through, with moments of tender dramatic thoughtfulness, but also quiets the film down to the point of blanding things up and often settling a sense of dramatic momentum. More problematic of a trademark within Hallström's dramatic direction, however, is, of course, sentimentality, which is generally genuine enough to move, but still too saccharine in its plays on Rachel Portman's tender score and on less subtle moments in writing for comfort, which would be easier to forgive if this subject matter wasn't so dramatically heavy, conceptually taking on an audacious attention to flawed humanity in many different scenarios whose full power goes diluted by a touch too much tenderness. Don't get me wrong, such sentimentality is moving on a number of occasions, but just keeping that up limits the dramatic dynamicity that should be considerable in a film this layered, which isn't to say that there isn't plenty of ambition behind this project, for the palpable passion placed into this drama makes it harder to disregard the shortcomings which prevent the final product from truly standing out. That being said, the film certainly rewards as an overambitious, but worthy drama, with taste, heart and commitment to telling a tale that deserves to be told. The study of one young man's coming of age through new and sometimes even questionable experiences, and of an older man's struggles with personal flaws and doing right by youths who have their own struggle, this drama certainly has a lot going on, perhaps too much, but it sure is meaty, with intriguing conflicts and very human themes that secure much compellingness to the film in concept, alone. As for the execution, overambition results in uneven focus and excessiveness in plotting, yet there is still enough laziness for tropes to set in, although through it all, John Irving turns in a script with wit and color, particularly to its distinguished characterization which sells memorable character after memorable character. Just as effective in selling the characters is, of course, the acting, which is solid across the board in this sizable and respectable cast, particularly within the leads, with Michael Caine delivering both a surprisingly tight American accent and unsurprisingly glowing charisma, in addition to a subtlety which encompasses the Dr. Wilbur Larch character's quiet intensity as a flawed, but good man, while Tobey Maguire's own somber charisma and subtle layers makes the Homer Wells character convincing and memorable as a young man coming of age in a world whose harshness he already knows all too well. Sure, Caine and Maguire are playing themselves, but they deliver time and again, while everyone else - whether it be the intense Delroy Lindo, or the anxious Erykah Badu, or the exceptionally beautiful and naturalistic Charlize Theron - delivers at enough times to be worthy additions to a worthy cast which carries much of the depth of this ensemble character drama, with great help from a certain equally worthy offscreen performances. Even stylistically, Lasse Hallström delivers, making often sentimentally overblown, but generally genuine plays on Rachel Portman's beautifully tender score, as well as on art direction by Karen Schulz Gropman that delivers on many a haunting visual to immerse you in a film so reliant on its setting and intimacy. Of course, it's not just style that Hallström works so well with, because when it comes to substance, that's where the storytelling really comes to life, for although Hallström's thoughtful and tender direction often alternates between too dry to be exciting or too sentimental to be all that genuine, it never loses on enough fair momentum to keep up a certain consistent degree of entertainment value, punctuated by controlled touches in dramatic storytelling that draw you in on many a highlight in weighty, worthy subject matter. When the drama hits, it hits pretty hard, with a moving realization that, if much more consistent, would have driven the film a long way, at least to the point of being as effective as, say, Hallström's "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", but so much is done right in the handling of a story so worthy that the final product rewards the patient. In the end, the story's familiarity establishes overly predictable aspects which go reached through a focally uneven, overdrawn and even sentimental path, holding the final product back, but not so far back that a worthy story isn't done enough justice by well-characterized writing, strong acting, handsome style and thoughtful, often dramatically powerful direction to make "The Cider House Rules" plenty entertaining and compelling, if not moving portrait on humanity. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 13, 2014
    Solid film, kind of drags in the middle, but good beginning and ending.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Jun 09, 2013
    Beautifully done movie...
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer

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