THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR
* * * *
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, Mike S. Ryan,
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Tod Williams
Cole, a magnetic, heavy-drinking writer of popular childrens
books, and his moody wife Marion havent had much sex since
the death of their two teenage sons in a car crash several years
ago. Not with each other, at any rate; Ted has managed to have lots
of sexmuch of it kinky--without Marion. Who are his bedmates?
For the most part, women hes wooed into posing nude for his
surreal book illustrations.
Nevertheless, Ted and Marion do continue to share a life of privilege
and surface pleasure on a handsome beachfront estate in New Yorks
tony East Hampton. He writes and illustrates his books there, plays
a brutal game of squash with his male friends, and occasionally
bicycles into town to get drunk or to give readings from his work,
followed by sexually charged discussions with comely admirers. Marion,
far less gregarious, drifts through her days haunted by memories
of thickly swirling snow, a car suddenly severed in half, and the
still, bloodied bodies of her beautiful sons. Not helping the healing
process in the least is Teds daily ritual of browsing through
framed photos of the boys with Ruth, the four-year-old daughter
who was conceived in the hope of filling the intolerable void in
the couples life. The girl is obsessed with absorbing every
physical detail and emotional shred of the stories behind the individual
pictures, as if in this way she can bring the brothers who fill
her dreams back to life.
A dysfunctional family, to be sure. Yet Marion assumes she will
continue to follow her dry, joyless path without passion and without
change. Two jolts prove her wrong. First comes Teds announcement
that part of each week he will be living in town, and the other
part of each week she will be living in town, an arrangement he
describes as a trial separation. The second, even more startling,
surprise is the unexpected appearance of a teenage wannabe writer
Ted has hired as a live-in assistant for the summer. His name is
Eddie, hes gawky but attractive, and hes a dead ringer
for the older of their two sons. And of course Eddie's brain is
instantly aswim with fantasies centering on Marion, horny impulses
that soon lead to genuine first love.
Does the timid youth muster the courage to fess up to his feelings,
and does Marion take him as a quasi-incestuous lover? If youve
read John Irvings "A Widow for One Year"--the first
third of which has been adapted for this film--you know the answer.
Even so, you are apt to be astonished by the freshness, subtlety,
humor and heartbreak writer-director Tod Williams brings to a story
that could so easily have slipped into soap opera or slopped over
into farce. The writing is sharp, penetrating and cliché-free;
the direction both disciplined and spontaneous, and bracingly unsentimental.
Williams more than delivers on the promise shown in "The Adventures
of Sebastian Cole," his offbeat 1998 comedy-drama about a boy
coping with his stepfathers decision to become his stepmother.
he gets more than a little help from an extraordinary ensemble.
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 (Dakotas kid sister) is amazingly unspoiled
and soulful as Rutha 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. Talk about full-frontal
"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.