The Cider House Rules (1999)
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Predictable yet Enjoyable
The Cider House Rules is an effective, if at times obvious, drama that is essentially a father-son story, even if Toby Maguire's Homer Wells is an orphan. He was never adopted, and the doctor who runs the orphanage, warmly played by Michael Caine, is basically his father. Indeed, the coming of age story must show Homer leave the "family" home, try to find himself in the world, even as his "father" schemes to bring him back and get into the "family business". A woman (Charlize Theron) keeps him away for a while, but fate will take its course. Or rather, choice. What the tourist pamphlets don't tell you is that this period piece is really about abortion and makes a case for pro-choice, and so choice is a powerful theme across the entire story. The title refers to rules posted in a cider house where Homer works for more than a year, and the point is made that they were written by people who didn't live in the house and who didn't know what they were talking about. This relates back to abortion laws in a very obvious way. If the film has an overriding feeling, it is empathy. It asks us not to presume knowing what's best for the women who seek an abortion, and not to judge them. And if people have trouble with the Mr. Rose subplot, it asks us to forgive him too. You may not feel sympathy for him, but the film does, because its empathy, like Caine's character's, is without limit. There's something beautiful in that.
Wow. An incredibly young Paz de la Huerta.
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