'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
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
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.
© 2004 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 6/23/04
Door in the Floor, The
USA - 2004