The Cider House
NOTE: Comments contains spoilers.
1 January 2000
Just read your review. Stumbled across it as I was looking for some more info about the people who were in Cider House, thought it was a very accurate review and I agree almost 100%. However, I enjoyed the movie in its entirety. So much so that I have returned to see it alone and plan on seeing it still again. Really liked Tobey Macguire's portrayal of Homer Wells. I would like to read the book.
14 January 2000
I feel so fortunate to have found your review. I have been surfing around and found nothing to compare with your thoroughness. It was a pleasure to read a review that allowed me to make up my own mind about seeing it. I shall look for your reviews in the future.
Thank you very much for your kind response to my review of The Cider House Rules. It's wonderful to get feedback, particularly with regard to how useful the reviews may or may not be to those trying to decide whether to see a particular film in the first place. And it's definitely nice to hear that my wordiness translates as "thoroughness" to some of our more intrepid readers! So... did you decide to see Cider House Rules? If so, what did you think?
21 January 2000
Yes - we did go to see it. There were 4 of us and three enjoyed the film, but #4 thought it "highly immoral"–and he was a grump all during our dinner that followed the movie!! The first part, as you said, was the better movie. I thought it a bit overlong but the significance of the title eluded us. I would recommend it--and the last time I remember Michael Caine being that good was in Alfie.
It's cool that you responded! I agree with your "movie is overlong" comment... though I couldn't be sure that it wasn't just feeling long because I kept waiting (and hoping) for them to get back to the orphanage! I'm rather single-minded sometimes. Agreed on Michael Caine, too! I think his is a superb performance.
As for the title, I sort of read it this way: The movie is partly about the irrelevance of "rules" with regard to human nature, specifically abortion and real behavior of real people, as with the girl who dies from a botched abortion. The implication being that regardless of rules, people do what they believe they need to do. Thus, Dr. Larch ignores the "rules" and serves what he sees as a greater good in view of how people really act. In the Cider House, the workers have lived there for years without either adhering to or breaking the rules, because they can't even read them! When the rules are finally read aloud, it turns out that it never occurred to them to go onto the roof until they knew they were forbidden to. Once they know it's forbidden... straight to the roof! That's how people are. I also think that a point was being made about the fact that the posted rules were written by people who would not be affected by them, and would–in fact–have no clue about what was or was not important to worry about in that domain. Thus, the "rules" are somewhat arbitrary and also somewhat disengaged from reality.
There's a whole thread of the complexity of human ambiguity running through the film, so I figure my guess about the title is as good to toss out as any! In truth, I have no idea what the real meaning is.
Thanks again for your interest in the site, and for writing back! I really was curious as to whether you'd seen the movie.... I'm glad you mostly enjoyed it.
22 January 2000
Thanks for your comments–as usual, you hit the nail right on the head with your explanation. One final thought on the movie: I would like to think that when Alfie found "what it was all about" he turned into Dr. Larch.
6 February 2000
Enjoyed the review, and the movie, for that matter. Although the review had much to offer and deepened my understanding of the movie, reviewers have fallen into an egoism. I felt this, I felt that. I had this sense. I, I, I. Reviews serve us better to point things out and analyze, not say over and over again how the reviewer feels.
I hope you won't mind that I'm about to use the word "I" a bunch of times in this response. ;) <==[that, by the way, is a joke!]
Fair Warning: I'm verbose by nature, regardless of the forum. (As you'll soon discover.)
First, I want to thank you for your response, and assure you that I'm not the least bit offended by your criticism, particularly as you raise a valid point. It reminded me instantly of my brief tenure as a journalism major, and why I chose to switch majors after only one year. It was clear to me then that I am not, by nature, a journalist. And I am still not a journalist, though publishing reviews at a website may imply that I am.
I don't consider myself a film critic at all. I have no credentials, and if there's a manual for the proper structure of a proper review, I've never seen it. Nor, being the lazy person that I am, would I be likely to read it. In truth, I am nothing more than an ordinary person with an extraordinary affection for films. Though they're called "reviews" at the site, I've never thought I was doing much of anything beyond writing about films I've watched and sending what I write to the guy who runs AboutFilm.
I've often wondered if I should adopt a particular attitude toward writing these pieces, such as framing my opinion in aid of consumer-friendliness and thinking about the films in terms of whether the general public should be encouraged or discouraged from spending their entertainment dollars. I've leaned in that direction with a few reviews, but always with some measure of discomfort. In truth, that sort of service-oriented writing really doesn't interest me, probably because I'd be forced to write "bad" reviews of the somewhat inaccessible films that I've loved.
In standard mainstream publications, there are many restrictions imposed on the writers. They adhere to word-count limits, and are probably encouraged to lean either toward providing a consumer recommendation service or toward a more formalist and academic approach. The beauty of contributing to AboutFilm has been that (as a decidedly NON-mainstream publication) no such limitations or strictures have ever been imposed. Each contributor has been free to approach his/her coverage of a film in whatever form or style he/she chooses. As a result, the individual voices there are clear and recognizable instead of being interchangable. As a reader, I appreciate that immensely. It makes the reviews a bit of an adventure. I never know what I'll find, but I can always be certain that the review will reflect the person behind the opinions.
In terms of my own style being perhaps too personal, I don't disagree with your assessment at all. It's unconventional, to say the least! I imagine that it has limited appeal to a fairly large segment of the populace, and no appeal whatsoever to others. The problem is, that style reflects how I see film in the first place, which is as a very individual experience that takes place in a group setting. Try as I might, I'm unable (or, perhaps more accurately, unwilling) to divorce myself from my expressions, as if my personal perceptions are THE official perceptions of any given film. I don't believe that, and it's impossible for me to write from that perspective. Which is why I am not a journalist, or a "critic," or a "reviewer" by profession.
I like to think of my reviews as adding one more voice to the mix, as opposed to serving as definitive statements that will either elevate or dismiss any particular film. I've written them mostly in service to my own amusement, which probably goes a long way toward explaining why they have the power to aggravate or annoy some readers. That's certainly not my intent, which is why I genuinely appreciate your feedback. If nothing else, you've drawn my attention to the potential for offending readers via my tendency to inject myself overtly into the prose. I hadn't given that much thought. There may be more effective ways to convey my perspective without doing so, and you've certainly given me food for thought in that regard. In truth, part of me can't imagine anybody else is even reading these things! I'm happy to know that they (and you) are. And very happy and grateful that you took the time to give me feedback.
While it's unlikely that my style will ever change significantly (it's the only way I know how to write), I guarantee that yours will be a voice that lurks in my mind, challenging me to find more graceful ways to be self-indulgent. I hope that you'll give me another shot and send me some feedback. They'll still be "personal" reviews, of course. But perhaps I'll find a way to make them somewhat less off-putting to readers such as yourself. I'm certainly willing to try.
27 November 2000
I just came across your review of The Cider House Rules. A bit late, I admit, seeing as it has been some months since I saw the flick. I couldn't agree more about the weakening of the second half once Homer leaves the orphanage.
Though I did enjoy seeing Homer's philosophies put to the test in "the real world," I kept wanting to return to the orphanage to check up on the children, Dr. Larch, and the lovely nurses who nurtured Homer. Hallstrom seems to be suggesting, a bit dismissively, that Homer has somehow been holding everthing together. True, Larch is paternally attached to Homer, but not to the point of self-destruction. In short, the film felt like two movies in one, and the result was mildly distracting.
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