With an emotional impact even more focused than the John Irving novel it's based on, "The Door in the Floor" perfectly strikes notes of love, grief, guilt and mistrust.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
"Specific details." That's what makes a great writer great according to
the grizzled Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges), a successful children's author and sometime
pornographic artist speaking to his summer intern Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster)
off the coast of Long Island during one hazy Hamptons summer, a summer that
will prove pivotal to both men in "The Door in the Floor."
Specific details such as a distant sounding car alarm; an unseen racquetball
echoing off the deadening walls of a converted barn; a soft pink sweater worn
that first day; the color and unambiguous smell of squid ink; and, although we're
never quite served a close-up, many bare picture hooks left hanging from many
bare walls. By turns it's these specific details that make writer/director
Tod Williams's film (based on the best-selling novel "A Widow for One Year"
by John Irving and named for one of his protagonist's juvenile publications)
|THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR|
|Written and directed by: Tod Williams.|
Adapted from the novel "A Widow for One Year" by: John Irving.
Cast: Elle Fanning, Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Larry Pine, John Rothman, Harvey Loomis, Bijou Phillips, Mimi Rogers.
Cinematography: Terry Stacey.
Edited by: Affonso Gon¨alves.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Minty O'Hare's 16-year-old son has come to work for Ted at a difficult
time. A poseur artiste who pronounces himself "an entertainer of children who
also likes to draw" and dresses and undresses with equal abandon, Ted and his
longtime wife Marion (Kim Basinger) are separating. "Temporarily" according
to Ted, who's initiating the split.|
Devastated by the death of their two teenage sons, a resultantly near-comatose
Marion has abandoned all hope of ever feeling alive again. Ted, partly in response
and partly due to his being Ted, has taken to sleeping with the women he sketches
(a gutsy Mimi Rogers plays his latest subject, Mrs. Vaughn) and Eddie, of course,
soon becomes inappropriately infatuated with the fragile, beautiful Marion,
beginning with her underwear.
Driving home one night Ted thanks Eddie for being so nice to Marion, and
Eddie's guilty expression makes no secret of just how nice he's been to her
(and she him). Recognizing this, Ted dutifully grinds Eddie to fine powder
(his words) on the racquetball court. The unspoken word often speaks volumes
in "The Door in the Floor"; it's a key to the film's peculiar power.
Adapting a voluminous John Irving tome for the screen is never an easy
task since the author is well known for complex storylines ripe with richly
drawn characters. In tackling Irving's 1998 novel, however, Williams has a
distinct advantage since the book is structured as three distinct sections featuring
daughter Ruth (nicely played here by Dakota Fanning's younger sister Elle) and
the director elects to adapt the first third only, one that concentrates on
the relationship between Ted, Marion, and Eddie. This allows the film to rise
above its obvious pitfalls and emerge as a surprisingly intelligent rendition
that, in addition, is beautifully photographed and sparingly scored.|
Like the better big screen Irvings ("The World According to Garp" and "The
Cider House Rules"), casting proves critical and all employed here are at the
top of their game, including Oscar-worthy performances from Basinger and Bridges
and a none-too-shabby one from Foster (Ben's younger sibling).
I've read the book and the film feels just right. It exquisitely establishes
the time and the place; it paints flawed, troubled individuals with limited
coping skills; it's patient, subtle, and restrained, enjoying the specific details
of its own quieter, contemplative moments. And finally it devastates us, much
as its protagonists, by the overwhelming power of grief.
|JULY 19, 2004|
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