The Cider House Rules

June 23, 2013

Are the turns of a simple life crucially important to tell? The Cider House Rules answers in the affirmative, yet we are left scratching our heads as to what is meant by the display, other than the eponymous “heart-felt”. In other words, this is female cat-nip in the same vein as Steel Magnolias.


The main critique with “heart-felt” drama is that it ends where it begins; precisely nowhere. To be specific, nowhere is a Maine orphanage. Uniquely out of all the children left to be orphans to the good Doctor who headed the place, Homer Wells became the golden boy. Is it because of his congenital heart defect that enabled him a life of orphanage privilege and of preferential treatment? Or was it all according to the doctor’s plan to groom his successor?


I wish it was possible to examine and critique the nature of orphans in early 20th century life. We do see active social involvement, as the orphanage is a private institution by necessity. This was an age before government rapaciousness. Other than that however, we are left with the typical clichéd guilt of children who are rejected by potential parents, until the doctor’s pro bono side-job of preventing orphans – abortions – creates a collision of two worlds.


Why this collision in the first place? Out of all the women to enter the orphanage for an abortion, why now are we treated to Homer’s fascination with her? Was she really that extraordinary to compel him to leave his home and follow her and her beau to pick apples?


The entire movie is a leaf in the wind, gliding epiphenomenally without providing any sort of context or intentionality to the audience about what its aim is. It does have vapid attempts at drama which come across as amateur Shakespearean twists – not to fault the filmmakers as I am sure they are included in the book.


Perhaps this is the source of the problem: it is a poor adaptation. The characters are not quote “fleshed out”. There is too much disconnect between climactic events which turn the film, despite being almost two and a half hours in length, into sensationalist tripe.


And amidst all of this is Homer, the gentle privileged Prince of Maine, wades through with seemingly no place in the world except where he was born and where he will surely die. Does he grow as a person? How can he with such clumsy debilitation of his character through the emphasis of pulling the emotional strings of women?


Grade: C-



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