"Goodnight you princes of Maine, you kings of New England."
The Cider House Rules
Review by Ross Anthony

"Cider House" cuddles itself around you like a sixty year old afghan. Seemingly a heartwarming yarn of a cynical, yet loving, orphanage caretaker (Caine) and one orphan that's been adopted twice and returned twice (Maguire); this crochet comforter eventually becomes more of a patch work quilt. Caine narrates this much of the tale even before the opening credits finish. Though the first act blankets the screen with the warm cinematographic look and against-all-odds optimism of "October Sky," "Cider House Rules" never quite leaves the ground.

Caine grooms Maguire for his position as caretaker/obstetrician at the St. Cloud orphanage, but instead, the good-natured, intelligent young Maguire seizes a sudden opportunity to see the world. This is where the movie changes its tone. No longer about the Caine/Maguire (promising son leaving his possessive, but loving father) relationship, "Cider House" becomes a soap opera platform for a pro-choice/pro-life debate eventually favoring the former.

An attempted metaphor for society's meaningless out-of-date, out-of-touch traditions/rituals/morals, "The Rules" serve as a constant pain in the butt to those "real" (in-touch) people in the film. But, since these rules have never been demonstrated to mean a darn thing to our endearing main character, all the fuss about them at the end doesn't mean much to the viewer. It could have worked, had Irving re-written Maguire's already lovably indifferent demeanor.

The photography is grand and the acting solid all the way through with special cudos to Delroy Lindo as the apple picker crew boss. Though each scene stands strong on its own, the film as a whole falls short, trying hard to condense just too much of the novel's material into a little over two hours of cinema time. New threads start too far from where the old ones finish, leaving "Cider House" with more patches than a quilt despite its sincerely fine beginning.

Though two other John Irving books have been made into films ("World According to Garp" and "Hotel New Hampshire"), the "Cider House" screenplay is the first to have been penned by him as well.

  • The Cider House Rules. Copyright © 1999. Rated R.
  • Starring Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delory Lindo and Erykah Badu.
  • Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.
  • Screenplay by John Irving (Based upon his novel).


Copyright © 1999. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:16:44 PDT