Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"The Cider House Rules" - A Review Of The 1999 Film - Now Reissued On A 2011 Studio Canal BLU RAY.

"…She Was Killed By Secrecy…She Was Killed By Ignorance…"

Lasse Hallstrom's 1999 adaptation of John Irving's 1985 book (of the same name) is a rather lovely little film - that's genuinely been upgraded by BLU RAY. It's not note-perfect as a transfer by any means (soft focus here and there, a bit of grain and blocking too) - but when it's good (which is a lot of the time) - it's really gorgeous to look at.

You notice the improvements especially when the story gets to the home and lands of Olive Worthington and her son Wally (great casting in Kate Nelligan and Paul Rudd). She’s an estate-owning boss and he’s a dashing young Airforce Pilot who is waiting for overseas action in the Second World War. Even the indoor scenes in the live-in hut where all the apple pickers live (the 'Cider House' mentioned in the title) are very clear and at times amazingly so. The faces and clothing of the actors are razor-sharp too (superb cast choices in Delroy Lindo, Erykah Badu, Evan Park, Heavy D, and K. Todd Freeman). So too when Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire’s character) is out walking with Wally’s beautiful and vivacious fiancĂ© Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron) while Wally’s away at war – the shots by the Sea and the nearby lobster fishing port are beautiful to look at.

Acting-wise - there is so much to savour here. A huge part of the film’s heart has to go to touching performances from children - Erik Per Sullivan as the bronchial Fuzzy, Kieran Culkin as the troubled Buster and Paz De La Huerta as the young teenage girl who fancies Homer way too much for her own good. Throw in Kathy Baker and Jane Alexander as elderly nurses with an abundance of unconditional paternal heart - and it feels good the second it opens. The story then moves as Homer does away from the snowbound hills and rivers of Maine to the sunny fields of working orchards in South Carolina.

But the movie belongs to its two principal leads - Michael Caine as Dr. Wilbur Larch and Tobey Maguire as the emotionally stilted orphan boy – Homer Wells (named after a cat and someone whose deep). First up is Caine who is simply sensational. Moving like a force of benevolent kindness amid the cold wooden rooms of “St. Clouds” (a 1930’s and 1940’s Orphanage he runs) – he is pragmatic and practical to the visiting pregnant women who don’t need judgement (dialogue above) but an operation that is illegal. Describing himself as “…a caretaker to many, father to none…” – he mother hen’s over a lively cast of young children abandoned in the big house with an almost casual cruelty. Each hurt child of course longs to be genuinely wanted – to be taken away by childless parents who occasionally come to visit and adopt. The scene where one pretty girl appeals to a couple - so they take her – but leave the rest behind – is heartbreaking. Caine imbibes so many of these difficult moments with a huge humanity - he’s an actor capable of conveying extraordinary compassion and anger – sometimes one after the other. The film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and won 2 – one for Caine as Best Supporting Actor and the other for Best Adapted Screenplay by John Irving.

Tobey Maguire excels too – his performance is full of quiet acceptance at first – but then moves into a longing for a more varied life outside of his mentor’s ‘doctoring’ requirements. Homer’s journey to his own ‘purpose in the world’ is long but convincing. Maguire is very, very good here. Charlize Theron too – not just beautiful - but accomplished. Watch out also for John Irving the Author (adapted the Screenplay too) in a tiny cameo as a Station Master at the beginning (doing his Hitchcock).

The “Making Of” interviews all the principal actors - as well as John Irving on adapting his own book, Stephen King (the Author) on Irving’s writing and Lasse Hallstrom the Director on shooting such a huge book. Its default aspect is 1.2:35 so it has bars top and bottom of the screen - but even stretched to full screen – it still looks great.

“The Cider House Rules” is a warm film – and one I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching. But more importantly - if you’re a fan and have love for this movie’s combined cruelties and charms – then you need to see/own it on BLU RAY.

Highly recommended.

1.2:35:1 Ratio
English for the Hard-Of-Hearing
Making Of “An American Classic”
Deleted Scenes

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