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THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR

A womanizing, marginally alcoholic children’s book author and his fragile wife seem to be reaching the end of their marriage, partly because they have been incapable of coping with the death of their teenage sons in a car crash several years earlier.

CAST: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Elle Fanning, Mimi Rogers, Bijou Phillips, Louis Arcella, Robert LuPone, Rachel Style, Amanda Posner, Larry Pine, John Rothman, Harvey Loomis

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Tod Williams

"Jeff Bridges offers perhaps the wittiest and richest piece of screen acting by an American man so far this year…‘The Door in the Floor’ nimbly shifts between melodrama and comedy, with a delightful and perfectly executed excursion into high farce near the end, and it seems perpetually to be discovering new possibilities for its characters… Screen acting rarely achieves a sense of completion, which consists, paradoxically, in our sense that what we see is incomplete: that there is more to a character than meets the eye. Ted Cole is a great movie character because, as inconsistent, contradictory and unpredictable as he is, Mr. Bridges, jowly, paunchy and endlessly magnetic, somehow contains him. Mr. Bridges not only dominates the movie, he animates it. He is heroically life-size." --A. O. Scott, The New York Times

"Jeff Bridges is not often discussed as an heir to Brando, but he bears a connection in his impulsive sense of danger and in the seamless, wholly intuitive way in which he works…Bridges redeems the clichéd role of spoiled artist-sot. He’s flamboyantly entertaining, which is more than this otherwise dreary movie deserves… Fortunately, Bridges is too canny an actor to play up the carousing-through-tears bit; there is the strong suggestion in his performance—it’s the most interesting thing in the movie—that Ted has healed far better than Marion, and that this is why they are breaking up. But it would helpful if we could get any sense from Basinger of how Marion was before the accident. She’s so blotto here that it’s difficult to imagine her any other way. Her sex scenes with Eddie, which ought to be rife with tenderness and spite and rue, just sit there." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"Extraordinary in every way, from the pitch-perfect performances to the delicate handling of explosive subject matter…the film exerts a hypnotic pull…What kind of movie is this -- a tragedy of death and car-crash dismemberment? A stinging comedy? A tale of sexual betrayal and healing? All of the above, and all pure John Irving…Williams is a talent to watch and a wonder with the actors. Basinger's haunted beauty burns in the memory -- this is her finest work. And Bridges, one of the best actors on the planet, blends the contradictions of Ted -- a charming egotist haunted by doubt and self-hatred -- into an indelible portrait. You can't shut the door on this spellbinder. It gets into your head." --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"As written, Ted could have been played by Alan Alda or James Rebhorn, men who could have given the compulsively satyrish Ted the self-loathing he needs. Not Bridges: He does Ted as bona-fide bohemian, no more a Connecticut prep school alum than was Paul Gauguin (whose hat collection he seems to have inherited)…Marion's really the problem, though. As portrayed by Basinger, she's far more fragile and maternal than Irving's angry mother…Marion should be a woman whose sexuality is undampened despite her grief, and who simply overwhelms a boy like Eddie. Certainly, Basinger is a good candidate for adolescent lust object, but she's so washed out and wounded that the May-September bed romp simply doesn't make much emotional sense…Bridges' Ted is fun to watch, all self-destruction and middle- aged delinquency. The young Elle Fanning is adorable but no actress and Mimi Rogers, playing a particularly angry ex-lover of Ted's, does a very courageous nude scene but seems to have been given no sense of the role by her director." --John Anderson, Newsday

"What is it about Jeff Bridges, the way he can say something nice in a way that doesn't sound so nice? How does he find that balance between the sunny optimism and the buried agenda?…I saw the movie a few days after re-watching one of Bridges' first performances, in ‘The Last Picture Show’ (1971). More than 30 years later, he still has the same open face, the same placid smile, the same level voice that never seems to try very hard for emotion and the same ability to suggest the depths and secrets of his character. In this story of a wounded marriage, Kim Basinger is well-chosen as his target in an emotional duel. There can be something hurt and vulnerable about her, a fear around the eyes, a hopeful sweetness that doesn't seem to expect much. Here she transgresses moral boundaries by deliberately seducing a 16-year-old boy, and yet still seems to be the victim." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"‘The Door in the Floor’ is a prurient and emotionally dead film about prurient and emotionally dead people who consider themselves wise because they're pretty sure life isn't worth living... Showcasing three individuals whose spiritual and physical journeys are both repellent and mundane, the film is just a long and pointless slog. Even Jeff Bridges can't rescue the movie, despite his excellent performance…he can't make Ted into anything other than a dreadful, miserable bore…The narrative staggers like a drunk about to pass out, its focus careening from one character to the next in a vain, slow-motion search for someone interesting. The attempts at profundity are insincere. The attempts at humor are tin-eared. ‘The Door in the Floor’ is just stylized despair pretending at philosophy." --Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

"Jeff Bridges’ portrait of a talented, lusty, vain, prankish, deceitful, frightened artist and writer is arguably the best work he has ever done on screen, a wondrously complex, bigger-than-life character who never begs for our affection but gets it all the same; Kim Basinger, fragile, steely and preternaturally beautiful, is superb as the tormented Marion; Jon Foster, playing the 16-year-old dreamer who comes to view his mentor as a monster, is a natural who seems never to be acting, not even in his loss-of-virginity scene; Elle Fanning (Dakota’s kid sister) is amazingly unspoiled and soulful as Ruth—a role that, if inadequately performed, could have derailed the entire movie; and Mimi Rogers is a totally shocking, totally naked revelation as Mrs. Vaughn, a hot Hamptonite model who knows precisely how to handle a knife, as Ted discovers on the thrill-packed day he tries to dump her…‘The Door in the Floor’ is a movie that takes a lot out of you, but it gives you a lot more back in return. And that makes it a rarity on the contemporary American film scene." --Guy Flatley, Moviecrazed

"… handsome but coldly uninvolving and pretentious…It's all extremely creepy. The comic relief comes in the form of Mrs. Vaughn (Mimi Rogers), a lonely woman who turns on Ted with a knife when he decides to stop painting graphic nude portraits of her. Rogers gives a brave performance, but there isn't much chemistry between Bridges and Basinger." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

“A beautifully acted examination of the bedeviling and perversely inspiring legacy of family tragedy, it's one of the most sophisticated American films of the year…Ted Cole may be the most complex husband and father, not to mention artist, to grace an American movie. In a richly nuanced, often both literally and figuratively naked performance, Bridges makes this monster, if not lovable, at least undeniably human…Basinger, too, has never been better or more radiant…She transforms Marion's morbid depression and withdrawal into a form of ravenous sexual longing…With this achievement, director Williams leaps to the head of the line.” --James Verniere, Boston Herald

“Bridges is fun to watch, Fanning emerges as Hollywood's best 6-year-old actress, and Rogers's talents are wasted. A likable drama within its limitations.” --David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor

“No one brings more tempered passion to a soul adrift than the criminally underused actor Jeff Bridges. In Tod Williams’ adaptation of the John Irving novel A Widow for One Year, Bridges suppresses his innate likability to play a famous writer of children’s books whose family has crumbled under a double loss….‘The Door in the Floor’ is not one of those dreary “stages of grief” movies whose characters mark time being sad and angry until their inevitable recovery…the film’s beauty is that, like any good novel, it refuses to sew up its meanings for the audience.” --Ella Taylor, LA Weekly

"Both Bridges and Basinger are miscast. Basinger, at 50, is a decade too old, and she plays Marion less as the walking wounded than as the walking dead. Her inexpressiveness seems better suited to a zombie movie. Bridges, on the other hand, is so brilliantly engaging, you can't help but empathize with him. Yet, Ted Cole is as irredeemable a fictional character as Irving has ever imagined. Rogers, meanwhile, wins the courage award for a scene that should have been rethought. To display Vaughn's degradation, Ted has her posing naked on a turntable, which he cranks around, giving the audience a 360-degree tour of her body. I didn't mind the view, but given the gynecological nature of Ted's drawings, Williams could have made the point better without putting Rogers on the Lazy Susan." --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News

"‘ The Door in the Floor’ is a deceptively simple-looking but fascinatingly complex film about the coming-of-age of a bright but virginal young student… By the end of the summer, his innocence is gone, and all he’s learned is how to write a first-hand thesis on cynicism, adultery, promiscuity and self-destruction…Beyond the crude, irascible selfishness of Ted Cole, Mr. Bridges cleverly draws you in until you not only laugh and care about him, but you genuinely cannot bear it when he’s off the screen for any prolonged period of time. He shows you that beneath the surface of a big, obnoxious creep, there is something deep going on. Not one enigmatic person in ‘The Door in the Floor’ asks to be liked, but you like them anyway." --Rex Reed, The New York Observer

"‘A Door in the Floor’ is the kind of novel adaptation that constantly reminds you of its literary origins. That is, the characters talk and behave the way characters in novels do - so if you like lyrical dialogue and fanciful metaphors, you're in luck. If you're inclined toward characters whose behavior is more grounded in the way people act in the real world, you may be less forgiving…‘The Door in the Floor’ feels more about a situation than actual people. It's sensitively rendered, filled with those necessary evocative details, and it never rings true." --Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune