The Cider House Rules, Blu-ray (1999/2011)
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo
Director: Lasse Hallström
Based on novel by: John Irving
Studio: Miramax/Lionsgate [10/4/11]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Extras: Commentary track by director, screenwriter & producer; “The Making of an American Classic;” Deleted scenes; Theatrical trailer
Length: 126 minutes
A wonderful, old-fashioned Hollywood film that was made in close collaboration with the book’s author, John Irving. Scandinavian director Hallström has a forgiving and generous nature and deals beautifully with such difficult concerns as abortion, incest and ultimate responsibility. Young Homer (Tobey Maguire) is an orphan raised at an out-of-the-way orphanage in Maine in the 1930s, to whom Dr. Larch (Michael Caine), in charge there, takes a liking as he grows up—as though Homer was his own son. As a baby Homer is twice taken by prospective parents, but returned for some reason. Larch does occasional abortions, such as when the woman’s life is in danger, and teaches Homer all the vital medical work. I loved that they showed the same movie regularly at the orphanage, and it was an old scratched-up 16mm King Kong.
Eventually Homer leaves and is invited by a young couple to do apple-picking on a farm owned by the girl’s parents. He lives and works with an all-black migrant crew and his innocence soon is lost as he learns about both the good and evil in the world, and that not all rules are steadfast. (That’s where the film’s title comes in.) He falls in love with the girl while her fiancee is serving as a bomber pilot during WWII. In the end he returns to the orphanage, having learned important lessons of life, love, responsibility and home.
Director Hallström says in the documentary he loves working with children, and the orphans are adorable without getting at all treacly. Dr. Larch, like some doctors at the time, is addicted to ether, and makes every effort to get Homer back to the orphanage—even to forging fake medical certifications for him. While a long film, it moves along and has a generally sunny nature, showing the beautiful Maine scenic wonders, although it does effectively get into some dark places. This is a classic collaboration of writer and filmmaker—Oscar-level work. The Blu-ray transfer looks terrific.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.