Michael Caine won his second Oscar from his fifth nomination for portraying Dr. Wilbur Larch in The Cider House Rules.
Michael Caine won his second Oscar over a child actor, one star, one up and comer and Michael Clarke Duncan. It should have not been a surprise for him to win against these four despite winning before as he had veteran status, but more importantly his role is pure Oscar bait. A devoted doctor at an orphanage who also is a drug addict and an abortionist in a film that seeks some sort of big emotional response in every scene. Caine even does an accent far from his own accent in the film that is not some derivative of his own accent, but a full fledged attempt at a New England accent.
This is the first flaw in the performance though that hinders the rest of the performance. Accents really don't matter that much to me except if they really add to a performance or are extremely distracting. Caine's accent unfortunately is the latter. His accent sounds like the inspector accent he used in Sleuth but without the Britishness, also that accent was an act within an act, this is suppose to be an entirely natural voice of Dr. Wilbur Larch. The accent though always sounds like something Caine is forcing out of his mouth rather than part of his character which is unfortunate.
Strangely enough though this is not my only problem with this performance which is unusual for me as I tend to always like Caine, but this performance is an exception. Caine is suppose to play a fatherly figure to the orphanage as Dr. Larch who is a kindhearted man who wants to what he believes is the right thing to do to help people. The problem there is strange lack of genuine warmth in Caine's performance in this film. He seems often cold in the role oddly enough, even though that really is not suppose to be the intent of his character.
This is especially true with his scenes with Tobey Maguire. They are suppose to be practically father and son in their scenes. They are suppose to be so close, and Dr. Larch is suppose to hold Homer so dear that he is absolutely heartbroken over Homer's decision to leave the orphanage. There seems to be no connection at all between the actors. I will say this is not helped by Maguire who is close to becoming blandness incarnate in this film, but still the relationship is never more than just a rather artificial one at best.
His character also does have his darker side as well involving his ether using as well as his affairs with his nurses. Neither of these aspects really come alive either. There really is nothing in Caine's performance that makes these scenes mean anything more than just something that Larch does. Why is he a ether addict, who knows, who cares frankly it doesn't serve to make his character anymore compelling and only seems to exist to make his character more unsavory. These aspects just are not given the needed attention to make them important nor does Caine bring the importance to them though.
I must say I actually was amazed how little this performance did for me. I was not moved once by his performance despite all of the sad stares given by Caine throughout the film with the sentimental film score along with it. This performance by Caine left me completely cold which was the opposite of the intent of the film. This is not a completely terrible performance I suppose as it is still performance by Michael Caine who usually avoids giving a completely incompetent performance, but it is a very uninteresting and ineffective performance that for the most part fails to fulfill the needs of the role.