The Cider House Rules
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The Cider House Rules is the fourth book by John Irving to be made into a movie.  It  follows his best known work, The World According to Garp, as well as The Hotel New Hampshire, and A Prayer For Owen Meany (released as Simon Birch).  Irving is one of my favorite authors. I love the way he writes and his voice is what tends to be lost when one of his books is brought to the screen. Books like The World According to Garp and A Prayer For Owen Meany are intense, emotional books and yet when they become movies, they seem only whimsical.  Irving took his name off the movie version of A Prayer For Owen Meany. It bears little resemblance to the book which is in my all-time top ten.  This brings me to The Cider House Rules, one Irving's more recent novels.  The story, set around the start of World War II, follows Homer Wells (Toby Maguire), a boy growing up in an orphanage in a small town in Maine.  The orphanage is run by Dr. Larch (Michael Caine) who also provides illegal abortions to young women in need.  Dr. Larch is training Homer to be his replacement but instead Homer leaves the orphanage in the company of a young couple (Paul Judd and Charlize Theron) who came in need of Dr. Larch's services.  Homer settles in another small town in Maine and begins a career as an apple picker with a group of black itinerant workers headed by a Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo).  This book, even stripped down, translates better into a movie than some other John Irving novels.  As with all books that become movies, much detail and depth is lost in the screenplay.  But what is left is quite nice.  Toby Maguire is good as the quiet hero of the story who spends most of his time ``waiting and seeing."  Old England actor Michael Caine is a bizarre bit of casting as the New England doctor but he is great as always. This is his first movie where he speaks with an "American" accent. No accent is more like it. But no one in this movie sounds like they actually live in Maine.  Charlize Theron looks nice as she models her way through the role of Candy who must choose between Homer and her boyfriend who goes off to war.  Three great actresses are a bit wasted here in supporting roles, Kate Nelligan, Jane Alexander and Kathy Baker.  The latter two play Dr. Larch's devoted nurses.  It is very nice to see Jane Alexander again after many years away as head of the National Endowment of the Arts.  This film is beautifully shot in New England by Lasse Hallstrom, best known in the States for What's Eating Gilbert Grape.  It's worth seeing but don't forget to read the book.