Monday, May 13, 2013

Day One Hundred and Thirty-three - The Cider House Rules, "I have no idea what Michael Caine saw in Tobey Maguire"

Right around the turn of the millenium, Tobey Maguire was the go-to guy for these sort of coming of age/waning grace films. In 1999, it was The Cider House Rules where he was the focus and Caine was the support. In 2000, it was Wonder Boys where Michael Douglas was the focus and Tobey the support.

I hate to say it, but I think I prefer it when Tobey is in the latter position. It's just hard to get a believable emotion out of him.

Set in the 1940's, The Cider House Rules tells the tale of an orphan (Maguire) trying to find his place in the world. Raised to be an obstetrician by Dr.Larch (Caine), who runs the orphanage where unwed mothers give birth to unwanted children... or don't, Tobey's character, Homer Wells, decides in the first act to avail himself to the good nature of a young couple coming to the orphanage for an illegal abortion (Charlize Theron and Paul Rudd) and escape the life that has been set before him, namely, taking over the orphanage.

Over the course of the second and third acts, Homer lives life apart, becoming an apple picker and falling in love with Charlize Theron's character Candy, who is heartbroken at being separated from her lover, the Army Pilot Wally (Rudd). They have a beautiful affair that lasts the winter until word comes of both Wally and Dr.Larch's fates.

I really liked The Cider House Rules, I just wish they had found someone other than Tobey to play this role. Throughout the entirety of the film, he plays Homer with a detached pleasantness that worked for him really well (ironically enough) in Pleasantville, but doesn't feel right inhabiting a character going through so much emotional turmoil.

Be it leaving his childhood home or finding his first love (lucky him that it was Charlize), I get nothing from Tobey but a sort of goofy neutralness that makes me wonder if he's just high all the freaking time. I mean everyone... Theron, Caine, Delroy Lindo... heck, even Rudd outshines Tobey in terms of emotional range in this film.

That said, it's still an interesting period piece that deals with some heavy subject matter, namely the ethics and morality of abortions. Sure, it's a little heavy-handed with its message and telegraphs its main crisis a bit too early, where Homer has many first act objections to what he considers to be an unethical practice, but it manages to smother doubt and awkwardness by introducing an even darker aspect to the film with the normally affable Mr.Rose (Lindo) and his daughter (Erykah Badu).

As far as coming of age films go, it true that the film is more than a bit plodding and predictable, with no real surprises other than the Rose situation, but it still manages to be pleasing and redeeming, never really succumbing to the cheese that hovers just around the corner, waiting to be unleashed via bad editing or scoring.

Quick shoutout to J.K.Simmons who plays Theron's father for a few scenes and Kieran Culkin who has a small role at the orphanage. Always good to see them both!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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