The Door in the Floor
2004Director: Tod Williams
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger
dapted from the John Irving novel A Widow for One Year, the latest offering from writer/director Tod Williams (Adventures of Sebastian Cole) deals, surprisingly, with the exact same subject as his first film. The Door in the Floor and The Adventures of Sebastian Cole both portray the strained relations between members of families that carry the surname Cole. The newer version of life, Cole-style, chronicles the painful transitional period of a marriage following unspeakable tragedy.
Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges), famous children’s book author, hires high school student and would-be writer Eddie O’Hare (Jon Foster) as a summer assistant. Cole’s decision to bring O’Hare to his East Hampton home comes mostly as a favor to the boy’s father, who wishes to expose his son to the methods of an established scribe. Upon Eddie’s arrival, he finds Marion Cole (Kim Basinger), Ted’s weathered but still beautiful wife, waiting for him alongside the family convertible. Marion accompanies Eddie to the Coles’ house, but promptly leaves without so much as a word to her husband, prompting Ted to explain, “You have come at a sad time in a very long and happy marriage.”
"I'm tellin' you, man, that rug really tied the room together..."
And so, Eddie, the focal point of the film if there is one, is thrust into a tenuous emotional atmosphere. He quickly comes to find out that Ted’s use for an assistant goes only slightly past the level of chauffer, and the daily writing routine he is supposed to observe consists of Ted making three or four grammatical revisions to a page-long manuscript. Most of his time is spent driving Ted to and from sexual conquests, which are thinly disguised as nude portrait sessions.
Quickly bored by his farcical job, Eddie turns to the pursuit of his hormonal desires. Rebuffed immediately by the Coles’ babysitter (Bijou Phillips), he develops a fierce attraction to Marion, evidenced by not one but two scenes of interrupted self-abuse. Luckily for the kid, Marion finds his awkward fumblings endearing, and the two begin an intense sexual relationship.
Eddie’s blissful time with Mrs. Cole is overshadowed by her emotional detachment. A few years before, the Coles’ lost two of their three children (boys near Eddie’s age), but Eddie cannot understand his lover fully, because mention of the event puts Marion into a state of near-catatonia. By the middle of the film, the young Mr. O’Hare finds himself watching the disintegration of one relationship and the deceleration of his own. The remaining action resolves the uncertainty surrounding the Cole family and pushes Eddie to a new level of maturity.
The Door in the Floor is blessed with an almost uniformly terrific cast. Bridges is tremendous as the fame-loving fake, Ted, and Eddie is perfectly ill at ease in a strange situation. Basinger is great with her non-verbal acting, but botches an important line or two with wooden delivery. The Coles’ daughter, Ruth, is also strongly rendered by child actor Ellie Fanning.
"Oh, those summer...niiiiiiiiights..."
Where The Door in the Floor succeeds the most is through unexpected but delightful humor. Eddie’s reactions to Ted’s eccentricity are generally hilarious, and Bridges has a few moments that would make any fan of “The Dude” pretty happy. Unfortunately, however, The Door in the Floor is not a comedy, and the dramatic aims of Tod Williams somewhat miss the mark.
The characters in The Door in the Floor are generally unsympathetic. Ruth is a little kid, so automatically the audience cares for her, but Eddie’s in no terrible danger or conflict. Ted is generally a schmuck, though a charming schmuck, and Marion is just a mopey woman whose emotional deadness is dangerous to her daughter’s well being.
The Door in the Floor is simply a very well done film that in the end is not overwhelmingly interesting. The characters are real, but do not undergo transformations (except for Eddie, whose changes seem forced) and produce a “who cares?” reaction. See it for the acting and laughs, but if you want a “family deals with tragedy” movie, see In the Bedroom, a much better drama.
By: Kevin Worrall
Published on: 2004-07-19