The Door in the Floor (2004) / Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexuality and graphic images, nudity and language
Running Time: 111 min.
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Elle Fanning, Bijou Phillips, Mimi Rogers, John Rothman, Louis Aricella, Donna Murphy
Director: Tod Williams
Screenplay: Tod Williams (from the book, "A Widow for One Year" by John Irving)
Review published December 28, 2004
Writer-director Tod Williams (The Adventures of Sebastian Cole) adapted the material to make The Door in the Floor from the first third of John Irving's novel, "A Widow for One Year", which in large part explains why there is little closure to anything you witness in the film. It's a slow moving drama, not dissimilar to many films involving the loss of a loved one, with rich, quiet scenery and contemplative conversations. For what it is, it's quite well done, with a subtle, but coldly intense portrayal by Jeff Bridges (Seabiscuit, K-Pax), in one of his finest performances. Despite the moodiness of the piece, it's also funny, maybe a bit broadly at times, but once again, the actors keep it on the real.
Separating couple, Ted and Marion (Basinger, People I Know), try to cope with the changes in their personalities after the deaths of their two teenage sons several years back, but to little avail -- they need to be apart. In the meantime, the biggest question is who is to get custody of Ruth (Elle Fanning, Daddy Day Care), the young daughter the couple had because they thought bringing another child into the world would help. They each still resign to their own thoughts, with Ted becoming a popular author and illustrator of children's books, while Marion is too shocked to really do much but walk around in a state of depression. Enter Eddie (Jon Foster of TV's "Life As We Know It"), a young intern hired to help Ted with some menial chores while learning the tricks of the author trade. However, Ted seems unwilling to teach Eddie very much, which is just fine by the young man, since he is more interested in spending time with the alluring Marion. Eddie learns much during his stay there, although writing is one of the lesser among them.
The Door in the Floor is not the kind of film everyone will readily take to, which is fine, since Williams doesn't direct it with broad appeal in mind. It is a very adult drama, with serious issues about sexuality, death, coming of age, and the fear of uncertainty that holds people in stagnation. Some of the subject matter might meet with controversy with some viewers, but Williams keeps the presentation tasteful, and more importantly, true to the characters. Finally, the film concentrates on the moment when the four main characters cause enough friction with each other that they need to either let go, or get sucked in to more despair; once the friction is resolved, so is the segment of the story Williams chooses to tell. What everyone does beyond the film can only be found in Irving's novel, or in each viewer's imagination.
This is the kind of movie that can't be measured by what it brings to you, rather than what you bring to it. Whether you find this to be engrossing (like I do) or mind-numbingly boring will greatly depend on how much you can relate to the plight of the characters, and how much meaning you can draw from their experiences. In some ways, it's a somber, poetic piece, reminiscent in tone and pace to 2003's Blue Car -- reflecting, doleful, and disconsolate. For those in the mood for this kind of tale, it's a well-acted and absorbing piece of dramatic fiction, which is the least you would expect from an Irving adaptation.
©2004 Vince Leo