Movie Review: Door in the Floor, The

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
'The Door in the Floor' is a film by Tod Williams which is based on the first part of John Irvingís novel 'A Widow For One Year'. It has the components of a great family drama reminiscent of Robert Redford's 1980 Ordinary People, one of my favorite films because of how Redford dealt with family tragedy and its authentic psychotherapy scenes. Like Redford's film, 'The Door in the Floor' has loss, tragedy, sibling love, guilt, and heartbroken parents who deal with their grief in unique ways. But that's where the similarities end.

Set in the posh East Hampton beach community, the film takes place in the summer several years after the Coles' tragically lose their two teenaged sons in a car accident. Jeff Bridges plays the husband, a celebrated childrenís book author, Ted who is married to Marion, played by Kim Basinger. Their loss changes their relationship and lives forever. They have a four year-old daughter, Ruth, played by Elle Fanning.

The couple's relationship is strained. Marion's grief renders her emotionally closed down and afraid to love again for fear she will not be able to tolerate loss. Ted has taken to philandering with a sadistic twist.

Their daughter Ruth is a victim of the family loss and subsequent conflict. Her parents are too involved with their own grief to give her much attention. Ruth's way of adapting to the family situation is that she is overly focused on the family photographs on the walls. Each day she ritualistically tells stories about them as her way of handling her anxiety about the confusing emotions surrounding her deceased brothers and her parents' emotional unavailability.

Eddie OíHare (Jon Foster) is an Exeter student who idolized Ted Cole as an author. Ted hires Eddie for the summer as his assistant. Eddie stays in the Cole's home even though Ted has just moved out. Eddie is obsessively attracted to Bassingerís character Marion. When the lonely Marion finds out, she is flattered and starts having sex with him. This continues all summer. Meanwhile Ted is busy with his avocation of extra marital affairs with women who adore him, that involve erotic sketches and requiring his mistresses to stand uncomfortably for hours at a time. There is the implication that at one time the Coles' relationship was a fulfilling one.

Elle Fanning's as the four year-old Ruth Cole is the best thing about this film. Itís a plausible depiction of how a pre-schooler might act when dealing with the grief and anxiety she encounters in the family. Some of the interactions between her and Jeff Bridges' character are poignant. Fanning is impressive at pulling off this role. I would bet this girl has a future as an actress. I especially like the opening scene when she drags a chair down the hallway (reminding me of the memorable scene from Billy Bob Thornton's 'Sling Blade') to stand on it and look at family pictures. Fanning's expressions are impeccable; I was excited because, based on this first scene and the title - which I thought was intriguing - I thought I was in for a great film.

Jon Foster also does a notable job playing Eddie. His postures, expressions, and line delivery indicate that he is a promising actor. But almost everything was downhill from there. Jeff Bridges did a decent job playing the debauched Ted. The role had interesting facets, but it lacked integrity and wasn't very believable.

What was most noticeable was the uninspiring job that Kim Bassinger did as Marion. It was as if she was never in the character but hovered above it throughout the whole film. When she was trying to sound depressed it came off more as meek. She still looks good but I never bought her character.

If I had not been reviewing this film I would have walked out halfway through. The story was not well executed, the pacing was slow and awkward and boring, and there were too many meaningless shots of the beautiful East Hampton houses. The scene with the knife- wielding jilted lover and erotic sketches flying around in the wind was not funny at all. None of the humor was actually funny except for one line. I can tell you what it is to save you 111 minutes you have to pay to get it: Ted goes to help his daughter Ruth at night and she says to him, 'Your penis looks funny'. He says, 'My penis is funny'.

In addition to being boring, this film was creepy. The sex between the middle aged Marion and the high school boy Eddie - with the age difference and power differential (she is the wife of his boss) was abusive, not to mention felony child sexual assault. Even before I was sure Eddie was sixteen, it was disturbing. If this film didnít have a flawed story, acting, and pacing, it would still be too creepy for me to enjoy.

In San Francisco this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine International.
More Information:
Door in the Floor, The
USA - 2004