out of Five
Running time: 111
Well made, impressively acted and frequently moving drama that smartly blends humour and tragedy.
The Door In The Floor is based on the first third of John Irving’s novel A Widow For One Year. Like most Irving adaptations, The Door In The Floor features all his usual trademarks: a New England setting, quirky, interesting characters and a strong blend of tragedy and comedy.
However, thanks to confident direction and impressive performances from Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger, this is quite possibly the best Irving adaptation since The World According to Garp.
Novelist In Strained Relationship
Jeff Bridges plays Ted Cole, a failed serious novelist turned successful children’s author who likes to illustrate his own books, one of which lends the film its title. Being something of a bastard, Ted also likes to seduce the various ladies in his Long Island community, after first persuading them to work as his life models.
As the film opens, he suggests a trial separation from his wife, Marion (Kim Basinger), who still hasn’t recovered from the loss of their teenage sons some years earlier and is neglecting their young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning) as a result.
Into this strained atmosphere, Ted invites naïve 16 year old Eddie (Jon Foster, brother of Six Feet Under’s Ben Foster) to be his summer intern, although it soon becomes clear that Ted’s motives aren’t quite above board.
This is a well written drama with strong, interesting characters. Jeff
Bridges is extremely impressive as Ted, his quirky geniality masking a personality that is actually quite bitter and spiteful; witness his game of squash with Eddie, where he barely manages to contain his jealousy over the boy’s closeness to Marion, despite the fact that he has deliberately manipulated their relationship.
Bridges is also the focus of most of the comedy, whether deriving from his penchant for public nudity or his hilarious escape from Mrs Vaughn (Mimi Rogers), his less-than-stable latest conquest. Unsurprisingly, there’s already considerable Oscar buzz around his performance.
Basinger At Career Best
Although Kim Basinger’s role is considerably less showy, she gives what is easily the best performance of her career, exuding a wounded vulnerability that allows her to seduce Eddie and yet still seem like the victim. Foster is also extremely good and Elle Fanning proves the equal of her older sister Dakota when it comes to portraying wide-eyed cute blonde moppets who are wise beyond their years. (What a strange family that must be).
There’s an awful lot to enjoy here, even though the first half of the film threatens to degenerate into a farce in which characters are continually getting caught either masturbating or having sex; fortunately these scenes are all very funny. As such, it’s extremely well handled by director Williams, who walks a fine tightrope between comedy and tragedy, ensuring that the emotional elements of the story are very moving and presenting a heart-breaking portrait of a deeply wounded couple who just can’t stop hurting each other.
In short, The Door In The Floor is a well made, effective drama that will have you chuckling one minute and reaching for the tissues the next. It also has a great final shot. Recommended.