Jun 27

“The Cider House Rules”: Making One’s Own Way

Well, someone who don’t live here made those rules. Those rules ain’t for us. We are supposed to make our own rules. And we do. Every single day. The Cider House Rules

Film critic Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, called the award-winning and poignant 1999 film The Cider House Rules, which was adapted from John Irving‘s novel and directed by Lasse Holstrom, not only “Dickensian” but also “one dickens of an American movie.”

Quite pertinent to Minding Therapy, moreover, and adding to the above, was the review of Stephen Holden, The New York Times:

It doesn’t take a cryptographer to decipher the meanings in John Irving’s sprawling picaresque allegories. But a reader who wants to savor them must be willing to suspend a psychoanalytic view of human nature descended from Freud through Oprah and surrender to an imagination that is more Dickensian than Freudian. Once you give up those expectations, a visit to the world according to Irving is a little like touring a parallel universe where fate is determined not so much by abusive parents as by wondrous tragicomic events beyond the realm of psychology.

THE PLOT

Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) runs an orphanage, St. Clouds. Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle:

Wintry St. Clouds has several kinds of clients. A few are prospective adopters who come to inspect the children — ‘I’m the best of all the kids,’ one of them declares — and occasionally leave with one. Many others come to have their babies and leave them behind, and some expectant parents come for illegal abortions. Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is an orphan who never found a family but grew to adulthood at St. Clouds and stayed. He now assists Larch. He knows how to deliver babies but is not a doctor. One thing he won’t assist Larch in, however, is performing abortions.

The following scene epitomizes the heartbreak of everyday decision-making at St. Cloud’s:

After a particular couple (Paul Rudd, Charlize Theron) receives abortion services at St. Clouds, Homer decides to leave with them to “see the world.” He spends years away from there, partly working alongside African American migrants at an apple orchard—the scene of the “Cider House Rules” that aren’t necessarily heeded—and off-season being a lobsterman.

While Rudd’s character is away serving his country, Homer and Theron’s character, Candy, fall in love

Other important parts of the story include an incestuous relationship perpetrated by the orchard’s crew boss and Homer’s eventual return to the orphanage.

THE TRAILER

MAIN THEMES AND PERFORMANCES, IN BRIEF

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “The need to be of use, the discovery that the official rules and real-life rules of how to behave rarely coincide — these and other life lessons that our innocent hero learns may sound like the tritest of homilies. But ‘The Cider House Rules’ gives them the depth and emotional weight of earned wisdom.”

Lisa Schwarzbaum, ew.com: “…Dr. Larch suits Caine, who, establishing the unorthodox rituals of a doctor committed to his own ethical rules (he huffs ether to tune out the world’s misery), locates the sadness and stubbornness behind the abortionist/child saver’s fervor.”

IN CONCLUSION

An opinion articulated by Stephen Holden, New York Timesabout The Cider House Rules resonates deeply with this viewer (who’s seen it several times):

…(I)t is a sustained meditation on the dream of home sweet home that gnaws at the heart of its orphaned main character Homer…as well as the hearts of the other children who grow up in St. Cloud’s…

…(G)rowing up means coming to the realization that in a cosmic sense we are all orphans.

May 15

“Gatsby” and Its Therapized Narrator Nick Carroway

The newest movie adaptation of classic novel The Great Gatsbyby director Baz Luhrmann and screenwriting partner Craig Pearce, has received decidedly mixed reviews. At least in part, some of the more unfavorable press stems from its unique presentation.

According to John Horn, Los Angeles Times, the following basics of the plot remain true to Fitzgerald’s story of that summer of 1922: “Bootlegger turned millionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) is desperate to reconnect with former flame Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who is married to a philandering, polo-playing blue blood, Tom (Joel Edgerton).”

One of the interesting twists in this movie, though, is that the narrator, Nick Carroway (Tobey Maguire), Gatsby’s neighbor and a former college classmate of Tom’s, is now institutionalized in the “Perkins Sanatorium.” While getting help for “morbid alcoholism” as well as other issues, Nick is telling his Gatsby-focused story not to us but to his shrink, who’s played by Jack Thompson.

The preview below gives viewers a sense of the overall feel of the film, which is available in 3-D:

Maguire’s role as Nick isn’t actually garnering much attention, at least of the positive kind. Two of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve seen of his portrayal—and the script behind it—also happen to be among the worst:

Joe MorgensternWall Street Journal:

This dreadful film even derogates the artistry of Fitzgerald, who wrote ‘The Great Gatsby’ while living on Long Island and in Europe. In a deviation from the book that amounts to a calumny against literary history, Nick, the author’s surrogate, is discovered in a psychiatric hospital where, as an aging alcoholic, he struggles to comprehend the vanished figure at the center of the long-ago story, and finally completes his treatment by writing the novel. It’s literature as therapy, and Gatsby as Rosebud.

Rex Reed, New York Observer:

As the new Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio is hopeless, a little boy in his first After Six tuxedo. Worse still, he is no longer the centerpiece of the story, a task that falls into the incapable hands of the incompetent, miscast Tobey Maguire as Jay Gatsby’s friend, neighbor and all-seeing matchmaker and Daisy’s cousin, Nick Carraway. He might suffice as a callow Spider-Man, but as the film’s narrator, saying campy things like ‘They were careless, Tom and Daisy … they smash people and then retreat back into their vast world of money and carelessness …’ Even with these masterful lines from the book, he just sounds like he’s reading from a college yearbook. Mr. Maguire is supposed to be the camera through which the tragedy unfolds, but he is light years away from possessing the range, craftsmanship and experience required to play a Fitzgerald hero.