THE CIDER HOUSE RUES, an expertly crafted and intelligent adapation of John Irving’s novel, explores themes of disappointment, ideas of moral ambiguity, and, indeed, lessons about life itself, woven into a dramatic story that is neither slow nor sentimental. Tobey Maguire is the immensely likable Homer Wells, a lifelong resident of a Maine orphanage who comes of age during WWII under the auspices of its director, Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine). Larch is pragmatic, progressive, highly intelligent, and loathe to let Homer go out into the world. He sees him as a son, and the only one whose medical training allows for him to take over when he retires from his job as physician, obstetrician, and illegal abortionist. When ingenue Candy (Charlize Theron) and air force adventurer Wally (Paul Rudd), come to Larch for help with an abortion, Homer befriends the couple and, against Larch’s wishes, sets off with them to see the world, or at least the rest of Maine. Working at an apple orchard owned by Wally’s mother (Kate Nelligan), Homer lives and works with a group of African-American migrant workers, among them the morally ambiguous Mr. Rose Delroy Lindo and his beloved daughter Rose Rose (Erykah Badu in a stunning debut). When Wally goes off to war, and Rose Rose gets into a complex and frightening situation, Homer is faced with serious choices and dilemmas that can only be solved by the wisdom he has learned from Larch. A classic, old-fashioned-style American film that deals directly with sensitive and taboo issues, THE CIDER HOUSE RULES is a beautifully acted, carefully paced story full of substance.