“The Cider House Rules” is a critically acclaimed drama that tells a compelling coming-of-age story but I question whether it is worthy of six Oscar nominations. Both of its settings, a WWII orphanage and an apple orchard in Maine, create an atmosphere that is very unique. The details of the story are well thought-out as the childhood development and experiences of the main character shape his decisions. For me, the main problem with this film is the casting of Tobey Maguire in the main role. The cast is essentially a Who's Who Among Hollywood Megastars when they were just blossoming actors, but why couldn’t they have chosen another rising star? Maguire had just gained attention from his role in “Pleasantville” but I just can't buy him as a dramatic actor. The poignant last line of the film should stir up emotions and bring closure to his journey. The only thing that I could think about was the superiority of Michael Caine delivering the same line through the film. Maguire’s facial expressions are very limited and that vocal fry at the end of every line overtakes the poignancy of anything that he says. Maguire-bashing aside, the young Charlize Theron offers a nice performance and Paul Rudd is so baby-faced that you almost don’t recognize him. This is definitely not one of Michael Caine’s top two acting performances, even though his Academy Award collection would indicate otherwise. I was not particularly impressed with his New England accent (afterall, we adore his English accent so much!) and he didn’t have that unforgettable moment that typically nets an actor a Best Supporting nomination. There is not nearly enough J.K. Simmons but Delroy Lindo gives a standout performance that steals the spotlight for the majority of the film. Perhaps he deserved the Oscar more than Caine? You do need to prepare yourself for some strong content before watching this film as it has abortion, incest, and everything in between. None of these things are shown in graphic detail but they are integral to the story and the development of its characters. I appreciate that John Irving adapted his own novel into this Oscar-winning screenplay and opted to write a few characters out of the story instead of doing them the injustice of underdeveloping their characters. It is nearly impossible for a screenplay adapter to preserve every aspect a novel. When it is clearly an unrealistic goal, smart writers find a way to capture the heart of the story by choosing quality over quantity, even if sacrifices need to be made. “The Cider House Rules” may not warrant a second watch but it has an interesting story and a few great acting performances that make it a one-time must-see.
[Pictured: I love Michael Caine and this may be cinema blasphemy, but I would have chosen Delroy Lindo for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar]