The Door In The Floor

2004, Movie, R, 111 mins

Review

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Efficiently extracted from John Irving's decades-spanning novel A Widow for One Year, this bittersweet tale of innocence lost is the sort of earnest adaptation that works better as an actors' showcase than as a wholly satisfying filmgoing experience. High-school student Eddie O'Hare dreams of one day becoming a writer, so it's with great excitement and deep gratitude that he accepts a summer job assisting Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges, looking uncannily like Irving himself), acclaimed author and illustrator of such creepy children's books as "The Door in the Floor." Eddie travels out to Cole's beautiful East Hampton home and unwittingly steps into the still-smoldering wreckage of Ted's marriage. Since the recent death of their teenage sons, Ted and his wife, Marion (Kim Basinger), have descended into their own private miseries. Marion is now so depressed she's barely capable of caring for their 4-year-old daughter, Ruth (nicely played by Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota Fanning), while Ted's drinking and chronic womanizing have resulted in a suspended driver's license and a series of meaningless affairs. Ted has taken to painting and seducing local matrons, most recently Mrs. Vaughn (Mimi Rogers), a very rich and very married housewife who lives on South Hampton's tony Gin Lane. Due to their growing estrangement, Ted and Marion now split the use of the hulking, shingle-style house, so Eddie sleeps there but spends the days typing Ted's manuscripts at the couple's apartment in town. Marion and Eddie's paths cross just often enough for Eddie to develop a serious crush on his boss's beautiful wife; Marion, in turn, is flattered by the youth's obvious infatuation, and soon embarks on a steamy, if ultimately destructive, affair with a boy young enough to be her son. Interesting undercurrents keep this fragment of Irving's much longer novel from becoming a SUMMER OF '42 rehash; Eddie's seduction is disturbing not so much because of the age difference but because Eddie so closely resembles Marion's dead sons. But getting Irving's characteristic blend of quirky comedy and sorrow just right on screen has always been tricky, and writer-director Tod Williams' best efforts aren't enough to make the mix gel. Midway through, the plot lurches into an extended, nearly slapstick sequence that finds Ted racing down the beach pursued by a scorned and furious Mrs. Vaughn, which Williams immediately follows with Ted's harrowing account of his sons' deaths, a career high point for Bridges. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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The Door In The Floor
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