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"I had a middle class, suburban upbringing - which I loathed. I kept my sanity by watching old Hollywood movies on the tv, where everyone was beautiful and had great emotions, and all the staircases had 400 steps."  -New Zealander Martin Wells, co-writer, co-director of Desperate Remedies
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday December 13, 2019 



Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) grows up an orphan in the care of St Clouds, which is run by the wise and caring Dr Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), who also performs illegal abortions on young women - like the pert and perky Candy (Charlize Theron) who comes with her fiancee, the volunteer soldier Wally (Paul Rudd). Dr Larch teaches Homer in many ways, including the notions of being useful - and of the occasional need to break the rules for a greater good. When Candy and Wally leave, Homer, now a young man, hitches a ride into the big wide world, to Dr Lurch's dismay. Wally takes Homer to his family's apple orchard to work as a picker, before heading off to the war. But it's not all apples, as Homer's heart is picked by Candy's charms. This is one thing Dr Larch hadn't quite prepared Homer for - falling in love, especially with another man's fiancée. Meanwhile, Dr Larch wants Homer back to run the orphanage. . .

"Poignant and involving, Cider House Rules is a gorgeous film, full of nuances and engaging characters. Its journey is a satisfying one, and Rachel Portman's distinctive music adds greatly to John Irving's Oscar winning adaptation. Irving's contribution is canvassed in the 'Making of an American Classic' featurette when he describes how he condensed the 500-600 pages of the novel into the screenplay. He explains the importance of not trivialising either the characters or the storylines. He was pretty callous when it came to cutting things out, he admits. He had to be. Authors including Stephen King and a couple of critics talk about Irving's work – something a little different and a welcome surprise.

It's an entertaining featurette: we meet director Lasse Hallström, stars Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire, Delroy Lindo and Charlize Theron, who all talk about the experience. Lindo articulates the crux of the film – how far apart life in theory lies from life in reality. Caine tells how he wanted to work with Hallström, a director who is very quiet on the set. But when he speaks, says Caine, you'd better listen, because he knows exactly what he wants. Hallström admits that he is proud of this film that seems like a sibling of his earlier work My Life as a Dog; the bizarre, comedic and dramatic elements in the tone were very familiar. Life isn't a genre, he says – it mixes everything, and that's what he sets out to achieve in his films. He talks about working with children and how he thrives on the natural undisciplined chaos that he tries to achieve with adult actors.

The Cider House Rules is a cinematic film that looks and sounds superb in the DVD's widescreen format. There's a trailer to watch plus five deleted scenes, which are interesting, but could have had more impact with an introduction to give context.

The piece de resistance is the full- length commentary in which director Lasse Hallström, writer John Irving and producer Richard Gladstein discuss the issues which make the film so memorable. They describe the intricacies of handling the abortion issues, Dickens' influence and what began as a mistake ended up as the film's opening sequence. There's plenty of detail here and this is both entertaining and enlightening. It's features like this that not only entertain, but add to our real appreciation of such a classic work."
Louise Keller

Review published: 31/8/00

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CAST: Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd

DIRECTOR: Lasse Hallström

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

DVD Distributor: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD Release: August 22, 2000


We gratefully acknowledge the complimentary use of a DVD player from Philips.


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