The Cider House Rules (Blu-ray)
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES is a beautifully shot coming of age story about an orphan boy growing into a man and experiencing life beyond the protected walls of the orphanage for the first time in his life. Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) runs a somewhat…unique…hospital that caters to both women who want to deliver their baby and leave him/her in the care of the nurses and those women who have no desire to be pregnant and need their “problem” taken care of by a trained physician. Dr. Larch becomes a guardian to many and a father to none by turning St. Cloud’s into an orphanage for the discarded children. His favorite resident is Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) and after many years together, Dr. Larch begins to train him to be a gynecologist.
Homer meets Candy (Charlize Theron) when she comes to get an abortion. After visiting with her boyfriend, it is settled that Homer will catch a ride with the duo back to their home town and begin a new life. Everyone at St. Cloud’s is extremely sad and Dr. Larch begins a strong letter writing campaign to convince Homer to come back and take over the orphanage. Homer is too busy discovering drive-in movies, lobster and the ocean to even consider the possibility. He is a humble orchard man (read: apple picker) living with the other help in the Cider House and is soaking up every bit of his new found freedom. This includes the company of the tall, beautiful blonde who ignited his curiosity in the first place and whose boyfriend just happened to be shipped off to war. It isn’t until he discovers that the real world is full of numerous disappointments, heinous acts and heartbreak that he questions the rules that surround him and what is worth compromising in life.
John Irving both wrote the screenplay and the novel on which THE CIDER HOUSE RULES was based. His obvious protection over the dialog coupled with Hallström’s precise direction allowed each and every character to be developed in a way that didn’t seem forced. Setting your story in an orphanage calls for quite a few extra cast members. However, you have a heart of stone if you don’t fall in love with Buster, Curly and Fuzzy. These three orphan boys almost steal the show with their feelings of hopelessness that the world has forgotten them. And Maguire’s chemistry with each one is truly palpable.
Caine’s performance was brilliant as well. I can see why he won an Academy Award for his portrayal as Dr. Larch. His love and affection for each and every child is beautifully masked behind his professional physician exterior, mentoring moments with Homer and conniving brainstorming meetings with the Board to persuade them to accept his protégé as his future replacement. But Caine quickly turns the switch and allows himself to show full emotion when he’s burying the remains of an orphan, gently calming a very pregnant woman and bidding his boys adieu at the end of the day with his signature exit, “Goodnight you princes of Main…you kings of New England.”
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES is a rich story full of gorgeous cinematography and impeccable writing. Although it was a little long for me, I appreciated the work Irving put in to chopping his beloved epic book down to two hours of entertainment for the masses.
Video: MPEG-4 AVC 1080p High Definition: This movie is absolutely breathtaking in Blu-ray. The mountains, apple orchards, New England countryside and seasonal changes were very beautiful.
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0: I found that the score was entirely soothing. Although this movie didn’t have a bunch of explosions or gun fights, the ambient music was a nice background.
Commentary with Lasse Hallström, Screenwriter John Irving and Producer Richard Gladstein: These three guys were totally on the same page. And it was fun to hear that Hallström enjoyed working with kids from his MY DOG SKIP days.
The Making of an American Classic (22:09): This featurette interviews the cast and crew of THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. Most of the piece was dedicated to the father/son relationship between Homer and Dr. Larch. Irving talks about how this theme was the origin of the story. He wanted write something about a father and son, yet he didn’t want them to be related. Many of the characters talk about how the picture is both a comedy and drama, yet neither. I never laughed, so that was a bit confusing to me. Orphans are generally sad unless they are singing and dancing with a dog named Sandy.
Deleted Scenes (8:04) I want to see the baby, She’s a prostitute, Hazel packing up, The Cider House, Up on the roof: I felt that “The Cider House” clip should have made the movie. There isn’t much detail, until the very end, about the “rule” portion of the plot. And for a good amount at the beginning, I thought that The Cider House was the orphanage.