Cider House Rules, The (US - BD RA)
Jonathan takes a quick look at the Lasse Hallström film on Blu-ray...
Tobey Maguire stars as Homer, who's lived nearly his entire life within the walls of St. Cloud's Orphanage. Though groomed by the owner, Dr. Larch (Michael Caine), he feels the need to experience the world outside. Then, while working at an apple orchard, Homer falls for the beautiful Candy (Charlize Theron) and learns some powerfully indelible lessons about live, love, and home. (From the Lionsgate synopsis)
I hadn't seen The Cider House Rules since I was in middle school, and revisiting it was a nice surprise. One could easily accuse this movie of being emotionally manipulative, but director Lasse Hallström knows how to give the story just the right amount of tenderness without tipping over into melodrama. The first hour of the film, where we are still at the St. Cloud's Orphanage, is when the movie works best. The kids are charming and fun to watch, and the relationship between Homer and Dr. Larch keeps things interesting. The movie touches on taboos like abortion and incest with a startling maturity and lack of bias.
The pacing and my interest both took a dip in the latter half, and some trying contrivances occur that force Homer to confront his moral conflict, but there are still wonderful performances and surprisingly challenging themes at work here. Maguire doesn't stray too far from his usual performance style, but it works for the character of Homer. Caine is brilliant as Dr. Larch, and while I would argue that Tom Cruise should've won the supporting actor Oscar that year (for Magnolia), there's no denying that Caine gives an endearing performance. I'm not familiar with Irving's original novel, but what made it into the film makes for a reasonably moving experience that I can see myself revisiting again in the future.
The 1080p video transfer from Lionsgate gets off to a bumpy start with some distracting telecine wobble that the opening credits make very apparent. There are also small instances of print damage and scratches visible throughout the film, but I didn't find them any more distracting than watching a film reel projected at the theatre. Colours look marvelous and bring the film's gorgeous cinematography to life, particularly in the outdoor apple orchard scenes where the greens of the plants and the reds of the apples leap off the screen. I see some evidence of edge enhancement which occasionally gives way to halos and murky details in the distance, but it isn't applied too liberally and most of the transfer has a nice filmic appearance.
Audio quality is decent. This is an unusual DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 track, with no LFE channel. This quiet drama never really calls for strong bass, but it would've been nice to bring some more gravitas to the score and some of the more harrowing scenes. The mix never takes full advantage of the surround channels, with most of the audio being kept front and center, but there is some occasional ambient noise (wind, birds, rainfall) filling the speakers. The dialogue, in particular Dr. Larch's narration, sounds great and is given a perfectly appropriate volume level.
Extras match the Miramax Collectors Edition DVD, starting off with an audio commentary track with the director, writer, and lead producer. It's not a particularly lively track, but fans of the film and of the original novel may enjoy hearing the authors thoughts and the decision process that went into adapting his novel for the screen. Next up is The Cider House Rules: The Making of an American Classic (22:09, SD), which feels like it was put together to be played on cable channels and convince people to go see the movie. Much of the time is spent defending the adaptation of the novel and giving general descriptions of the film. The deleted scenes (SD, 08:48) are all lumped into one feature. It starts off with some extended footage from the medical practices at St. Clouds. There's a scene where a young Paz de la Huerta has some dialogue, and some more scenes of Homer bonding with the members of the Cider house. A full frame, standard definition theatrical trailer is also available.
The Cider House Rules was better than I remember it being when I was younger. It's not without its flaws, but the wonderful performances, likable characters, and mature approach to some complex thematic material make for a memorable experience. This Blu-ray from Lionsgate is the best the film has ever looked, and the audio doesn't leave much to complain about. The extras are decent, but they're ported over from the old DVD release.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 4th October 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary with Director Lasse Hallström Screenwriter John Irving and Producer Richard N. Gladstein, The Cider House Rules: The Making of an American Classic, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine
Genre: Drama and Romance
Length: 125 minutes
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