Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Cider House Rules (1999)

A Classic.... Agenda-Driven
Oscar-Baiting Scoop Of Saccharine

- One can tell how badly those behind The Cider House Rules (1999) desperately tried to make the film a poignant, epic classic. While encapsulating much of what we recognize to be classic, emotional dramatic cinema, try as it might the film fails to be what it seeks. The Cider House Rules is definitely not horribly-made movie - just not the great movie it tried to be.

The Cider House Rules certainly includes some positive elements. One is Rachel Portman's score - let's just get that straight right away - and the other is a portion of the film's acting. Tobey Maguire has the ability to be a good actor when he is not playing Peter Parker and he shows this in The Cider House Rules with his portrayal of Homer Wells.
The whole film centers on Homer's journey from the orphanage to the apple orchard, where he forms some meaningful relationships, helps some people out, and generally discovers who he is and where he wants to be in life. Also giving good performances in the film are Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo, and Michael Caine in an Oscar-winning supporting role. Caine, on top of being one of my personal favorite actors, is great as always in this film. However, I would not consider Caine's performance here in The Cider House Rules as one of his very bests or even Oscar-worthy - but I guess that's just me; obviously the Academy disagreed....

What makes The Cider House Rules a largely lackluster effort is the fact that the many supposedly touching scenes in the film feel very forced and artificial. Homer's departure from the orphanage and Larch's emotional breakdown work better than most over-done "moving" scenes, and it sure was a trifle bit eye-opening to see a married couple picking out an orphan like a soccer mom picks out a puppy at the Humane Society - but outside of those three scenes, The Cider House Rules feels like a pretentious cream puff of a Oscar-baiting film through its many melodramatic moments. Aside from the forced emotion in the film, the specifics of its writing (especially dialogue), cinematography, and other performances from much of the cast are all bland (especially Charleze Theron). Even if its themes and emotion did not feel melodramatic, the bland nature of its filmmaking would hurt the movie severely.

Also, The Cider House Rules carries a heavy pro-abortion subtheme that is shoved down the audience's throats rather dishonestly. By featuring a woman dying of an unprofessional and deadly form of abortion and a woman getting impregnated by her own father, the filmmakers mean to justify the implication of a law that has caused mass infanticide throughout the world. Well, whatever helps some people sleep at night, I suppose.

Overall, despite having a couple of good points, I would say that The Cider House Rules is an weak, melodramatic film inside a deep, meaningful film's clothing.

CBC Rating: 5/10

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