The Door In The Floor

The Door In The Floor


Reviewed by: The Exile

It takes nerve to use dead children as apologists for certain kinds of adult misbehavior, but nerve is something novelist John Irving (The Cider House Rules, The World According To Garp) has never lacked. The Door In The Floor is the fifth movie to be adapted from his work, this time from the 1998 novel A Widow For One Year, which, like its predecessors, adopts the refreshingly mature viewpoint that not all wounds can be healed. Or even ought to be.

Set in the upscale beach community of East Hampton, New York, the film unfolds over one momentous summer in the marriage of Ted (Jeff Bridges) and Marion (Kim Basinger) Cole. A prominent writer of children's books, Ted also paints portraits of - and has affairs with - wealthy female neighbours whose waning looks make them vulnerable to his shameless psychological manipulation. Less than a year since a horrible accident claimed the couple's two teenage sons, Ted fornicates his way to the future while Marion remains stranded in the past, locked in an emotional limbo, which the needs of their remaining child, four-year-old Ruth (Elle Fanning), seem unable to penetrate.

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Then Ted makes two announcements: he wants to separate from Marion for the summer and has hired a young man named Eddie (Jon Foster) to be his driver assistant. The events may or may not be connected, but you get the sense that Ted wants to shake things up. He's the kind of man who chafes at the status quo, even when it's pleasurable, and as the film progresses his motives become increasingly ambiguous. Is Marion being set up for a slam-dunk divorce, or is Ted fighting to save their damaged marriage? As Eddie ricochets from one spouse to the other, his hero-worship of Ted no match for his driving lust for Marion, his role as passive pawn in their marital games starts to subtly shift. By the middle of the movie you wonder who is playing whom.

At a time when most of his peers are desperately clinging to roles requiring a tireless regimen of buffing and Botox, the 55-year-old Bridges is determined to act his age. With his weary, intelligent face and softening middle, Ted is the personification of the writer as aging satyr, and Bridges plays him with primitive, angry hedonism. It's an extremely physical performance: invariably attired in long, flowing caftans, easily whipped off for a game of squash, or a quickie before dinner, Ted is not only comfortable with his own nakedness, he revels in it. He's an arrogant, at times distasteful, character, yet so skillful is Bridges at conveying Ted's screwed-up soul, we're never able to completely dislike him.

Like Patricia Clarkson's bereaved mother in The Station Agent, Basinger has the thankless task of delivering emotional numbness in the lee of a much showier performance. Giving Marion a veneer of cold self-involvement, she is surprisingly adroit with the film's cryptic dialogue. "I know about young boys your age," she tells Eddie on two separate occasions, the line's repetition a signal of something deeper and darker than most of us want to know.

Director Tod Williams (The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole), who also wrote the screenplay, has a gift for insinuation and fills the movie with verbal and visual clues. We may lose Irving's energetic prose but, thanks to Williams, we lose none of his narrative bite.

The Door In The Floor is an adult movie in the most literal sense, a portrait of two complicated, selfish people forced to acknowledge how far they have drifted from one another. And why.

Reviewed on: 23 Jan 2005
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Portrait of a marriage, contorted by tragedy, blistered by betrayal, shaken by change.
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Read more The Door In The Floor reviews:

Jennie Kermode ***1/2

Director: Tod Williams

Writer: Tod Williams, based on A Widow For One Year by John Irving

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Elle Fanning, Mimi Rogers, Larry Pine, John Rothman, Harvey Loomis, Bijou Phillips

Year: 2004

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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