About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Home
July 2004

By Julian Roman

The Door in the Floor


Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Tod Williams
Producers: Michael Corrente, Anne Carey, Ted Hope
Screenplay: Tod Williams, based on A Window for One Year by John Irving
Cinematographer: Terry Stacey
Cast: Marcelo Zarvos Cast: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Mimi Rogers, Bijou Phillips, Elle Fanning



The Door in the Floor is a film adaptation of John Irving's novel, A Widow for A Year. Irving novels have had great success on the silver screen. The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules are also based on John Irving books. The streak continues with this film. It is an interesting, sad tale of love and loss set in the wealthy suburbs of East Long Island, New York. The film is very deliberate. It is directed and written by producer turned director, Tod Williams. Williams produced the astonishing Ang Lee film about wife-swapping parties in the seventies, The Ice Storm. He brings that same sense of focus and character development that made that film so good.

Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger star as Ted and Marion Cole, a couple in the final stages of their marriage. Ted is a philandering children's book writer obsessed with himself and his work. Marion is a shell of a women, no longer interested in taking care of her young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning). The Coles recently lost their two teenage sons in a horrific car accident. They're consumed with despair, but exhibit it in very different ways. Ted decides to hire an assistant for the summer. He chooses a sixteen year old boy from his sons prep school, Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster). Ted's motives for hiring the boy are fairly duplicitous. It is one of the many secrets that are revealed during the film.

Eddie dreams of becoming a writer and is initially overjoyed to work for Ted. He quickly becomes disenchanted by Ted's erratic behavior. He begins seeing through his charade, but starts to fall in love with Marion. Their relationship develops into a torrid sexual affair. He becomes captivated by her, unaware of how emotionally wounded she is. Eddie does his best to get closer to her during the summer. He ends up discovering a lot about himself and the complexities of love.

The Door in the Floor is a deep, personal character drama laced with sex and nudity. I was very surprised by how explicit the sex scenes are. They're pretty hardcore, but completely straightforward. They are not titillating. It's a major accomplishment from director Todd Williams. He uses sex as an awkward shield that covers the hidden pain of the characters. It's basically what the characters do to avoid talking to each other. The physical interplay between young and older characters is especially well done. Eddie is overcome by his lust for Marion, while she gives him something her sons never got a chance to experience. It is a dynamic give and take that binds the characters, but doesn't resolve anything. The journey they must all take is to get over the sex and get to the root of their problems.

Williams gets a little pretentious in his directing style towards the conclusion. He's like an anti-music video director. There are no quick edits. He did have something going, stylistically, in the first part of the film. He chooses to shoot scenes where the characters are not centrally located. This way the you can choose to look at the events happening around the area instead of the actors. This is initially well done, but he then changes focus and starts relying on tight, character focused shots. I think he gets a bit too preoccupied, but that is really a minor criticism. Williams has talent and we should expect good things from him.

The actors in the film are Hollywood's venerable old guard. Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger do some truly spectacular work here. They give themselves utterly to their roles. I can't remember the last time I saw stars of their caliber get so naked for a film. Most actors shy away from nudity after reaching a certain stature, but the great ones are willing to do anything to fully portray a character. Jon Foster, the young actor who plays Eddie, does fairly well in his first major role. I can see why Williams chose him, he has this naive, curious look that is perfect for Eddie.

I really liked this film. Anyone who thirsts for good drama will enjoy The Door in the Floor. It also doesn't hurt to see Mimi Rogers completely nude and Kim Basinger in all manner of sexual positions. Like I mentioned before, it's not exactly titillating, but definitely worth seeing.