One of my top 10 books of all time, John irving's stirring THE CIDER HOUSE RULES was adapted for the screen by the author himself, winning an Oscar for best screenplay. It's a beautiful film, capturing the core of the story, but I still recommend any readers out there grab a copy of Irving's novel and dig in. Along with Irving's "The Hotel New Hampshire" they are books you dont want to end.
Tobey Maguire is Homer, raised in an Orphanage run by Dr. Wilbur Larch, embodied to perfection by Michael Caine in his Academy Award winning role.
The film takes its time introducing you to the World War II era and everyday life at the medical clinic/orphanage. You meet the many children, see their routines and their eternal hope of being chosen by visiting couples.
Dr Larch has given Homer complete medical training, making him a talented (albeit unlicensed) young doctor.
Larch is also the only available doctor for abortions in Maine. Homer struggles with assisting in the procedures, wrestling with the morality of the services.
When a young unmarried couple arrive, they change everything. Wally (when was Paul Rudd THIS young?) is an air force pilot on leave with his girl Candy, well played by Charlize Theron in one of her first roles.
Wally's family owns a massive apple farm and Homer jumps at the chance to join them when they leave, his hunger to see more of the world driving him to leave Larch and the children for new adventures.
Irving delivers on that adventure, delivering Homer into a new job as an apple picker within a whole new circle of friends and co-workers. Delroy Lindo is excellent as Mr. Rose, the good-natured leader of the crew that comes back every season to work the crop. Singer Erykah Badu made her dramatic film debut as Rose's daughter Rose Rose.
If you're familiar with Irving, you know that he loves to build a family of characters that you care about and then weave in elements of death, love, heartbreak, dark secrets and discovery in the most unexpected ways.
Kathy Baker (Picket Fences)and Jane Alexander (Kramer vs Kramer) are both strong in supporting roles as lifelong nurses in the clinic.
Rachel Portman's music score is an all time favorite soundtrack and Swedish Director Lasse Hallstrom seems the ideal choice to bring Irving to life.
Sitting comfortably with George Roy Hill's "The World According to Garp" as terrific adaptions of one of my favorite authors, Cider House is as terrific today as it was 20 years ago when it hit theatres.
See if this opening narration sets the tone for you: "In other parts of the world, young men leave home and travel far and wide in search of a promising future. Their journeys are often fueled by dreams of triumphing over evil, finding a great love, or the hopes of fortunes easily made. Here in St. Cloud's not even the decision to get off the train is easily made, for it requires an earlier, more difficult decision - add a child to your life, or leave one ..."
Writing, acting and film making doesn't get much better than this. THE CIDER HOUSE RULES gets an A+.
Look for Irving in a brief cameo as the Train Stationmaster at the end of the film.