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The Cider House Rules

Image credit: The Cider House Rules, 1999

When cider season rolls around, my mind usually drifts to Tobey Maguire learning the apple-picking ropes in this week’s film The Cider House Rules (Disc/Download). If you love cozy New England scenery, precocious orphans, and pro-reproductive rights messaging, then this one’s for you.

In a rare case of the movie being as good as the book it was based on, The Cider House Rules benefits greatly from a screenplay written by the author. I love a story with complex characters, moral dilemmas, and tightly woven plots, so naturally I’m a lifelong fan of John Irving’s work. He finds a way to make controversial subjects accessible and relatable, and this film is no exception. Yes, it covers some tough topics, but still manages to feel like a comfy sweater. Maybe it’s Michael Caine’s homespun Maine accent, or the sprawling ramshackle orphanage, or the shots of Charlize Theron in a wool coat hauling in lobster traps, or our newly crowned Sexiest Man Alive Paul Rudd in a dashing military uniform, but I feel like this movie gives us plenty of sugar to counteract the bitterness of life. And boy is there a lot to be bitter about in Homer’s world, and in ours.

Now, back to the cider. I personally love a dry, crisp variety as I watch the leaves fall outside, or when I put on a slow-jam Erykah Badu record. You could certainly pick a favorite brew to enjoy while you watch this film, but if you want to turn it into a cocktail, let me suggest this Rose’s Rules highball. 

Rose’s Rules

6 oz Dry Cider (I used Texas Keeper No. 1)

1 oz Ginger Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

2 drops Rosewater

Apple Peel garnish

Combine ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and rosewater in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then add cider. Do a gentle roll to mix the ingredients, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with an apple peel twisted into a rose.

As you watch Homer Wells embark on his hero’s journey, take note of how he’s a man of principle, yet open to change. He has empathy and heart, which serves him well in any environment, from orphanages to orchards to operating rooms. A true prince of Maine; king of New England. Cheers!

Dan in Real Life

Dan in Real Life

Image credit: Dan in Real Life, 2007

Fall is my favorite time of year, and not just because we’re finally entering Oscar-bait season at the multiplex. Rather, it’s a time I get to sit around my fire pit, drink spiced cocktails, and read a good book. If you’re looking for this feeling in cinema form, look no further than this week’s film Dan in Real Life (DVD/Download). Well-acted, well-written, and with enough charm to rival my favorite pair of fuzzy socks, it’ll put you in a seasonal mood in no time.

Dan in Real Life stars Steve Carell as a widowed advice columnist with three lovely, slightly resentful daughters. He takes his brood up to the family compound in Rhode Island for a weekend of crossword puzzles, pancakes, and chilly walks on the beach, only to be met with glares from his kids, pity from his siblings, and mild reproach from his parents. But then he encounters Juliette Binoche in a charming bookstore meet-cute and they hit it off like gangbusters…. until he realizes she’s already dating his brother. With a wonderful supporting cast including Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Alison Pill, and even Dane Cook in a surprisingly good performance, the movie sparkles with a rare combo of intelligence and sentimentality. I find myself wanting to be a long-lost cousin, visiting their lovely New England home for just a day. Even if it means I have to sleep in the laundry room.

A movie this sweet deserves a perfect Fall cocktail to go with it. There’s nothing that says Autumn quite like spiced apples, so while watching Dan in Real Life, I recommend drinking an Autumn Apple Sipper.

Autumn Apple Sipper

2 oz Dry Hard Cider

1 oz Sweet Retreat Apple Pie Liqueur

1/2 oz Spiced Rum

1 oz Honeycrisp Apple Cider

Pinch of Cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a mug over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a pinch of cinnamon.

Steve Carell is the rare comic actor who is equally talented in dramatic roles, and Dan in Real Life is the perfect showcase for both sides of this coin- he’s at once charming and morose, funny and forlorn. I guarantee his rendition of “Let My Love Open the Door” will break your heart, just a little. If you think by now you’ve seen everything this guy can do, plan to be surprised. Cheers!