An orphan trained to be a doctor leaves the orphanage in search
of his own adventure, and ultimately finds where he belongs.
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Written by John Irving
Starring Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine,
Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker,
Erykah Badu, Kieran Culkin, Heavy D, K. Todd Freeman
Based on the novel by John Irving
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actor (Michael Caine),
Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Rachel Portman)
The Cider House Rules is one of the movies that hasn't been revisited quite as often as it should be, mostly because it's been labeled as Oscar bait, which is fair. Most dramas that are recognized by the Academy are designed to win Oscars, and are swiftly forgotten about after the ceremony. I think this film still has merit, though. All the actors involved are fantastic, and the characters are incredibly layered. I love films that remind me that human beings are flawed, and capable of good and evil, sometimes at the same time. It's up to us to decide which side we indulge, and this film is entirely about morality.
Homer Wells (Maguire) is an orphan who was never adopted, and was raised at the orphanage by the kindhearted and empathetic Dr. Wilbur Larch (Caine). Larch teaches Homer everything he knows about medical science, particularly how to deliver unwanted babies and how to administer abortions. Homer decides one day that he wants to see the world, so he hitches a ride with one of his patients, a gorgeous young woman named Candy (Theron) and her soldier boyfriend Wally (Rudd). Homer ends up apple-picking on Wally's family orchard, but after Wally is shipped off, he and Candy hook up and seemingly fall in love. Also, a horrific tragedy forces Homer to put his doctor skills to use, and also forces him to decide what it means to do the right thing. It's an engaging drama that never lets up.
I don't think The Cider House Rules is the best movie of 1999, not by a long shot. It was a fantastic year for film, and the five film pool of Best Picture nominees doesn't reflect my favorites in the slightest. But I do think this is a film that holds up thanks to its amazing performances, powerful screenplay, and eye-opening life lessons.