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The Door In The Floor

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Door In The Floor

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger
Director: Tod Williams
Rated: R
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Mimi Rogers, Bijou Phillips, Elle Fanning, LeAnna Croom, Jon Foster, Donna Murphy, John Rothman, Kristina Valada-Viars, Carter Williams

Review by Harvey Katen
3½ stars out of 4

Elementary school teachers welcome the first day of school following the obligatory two-months' recess by asking the youngsters to describe "what I did on my summer vacation." Too bad this is not customary in high school, because what Eddie O'Hare could tell his class on the first day of his senior year would knock off even the jaded socks of his presumably preppy "nothing-shocks-us" class at the Exeter School. "The Door in the Floor," the title derived from a celebrated children's book by Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges), is a useful nomenclature for both the metaphoric meaning described in a young woman's term paper about the author, and a delightful final moment of the film that makes one guess (and hope) that a sequel will be forthcoming.

The story is seen from the point of view of a sixteen-year-old aspiring writer, Eddie–a young man who in one summer is transformed from a naif to a sexually initiated and ultimately matured preppie on a summer internship. "The Door in the Floor" opens on a wistful and spirited four-year-old, Ruth (Elle Fanning, the five-year-old sister of Dakota) whose fixation on a picture of her two brothers introduces us to an accident that has taken their lives and has had a profound effect on her parents' marriage. Marion Cole (Kim Basinger) blames her husband for the tragedy and has becomes almost comatose, brought to life by the young intern who was hired to drive the license-challenged Ted to his assignations and beyond, but who may have been given the job as either a gift to Ted's now-estranged wife or, more cynically, a means of gaining custody of the little girl. Young Eddie's reluctance to date Ruth's teen nanny, Alice (Bijou Phillips) is fortuitous, leading to the lad's seduction by the unhappy Marion, whose husband's meanderings about the population of East Hampton women (first using them as models, then seducing and tiring of them) may or may not have led to his wife's estrangement. Sexuality is an important undercurrent throughout the story, featuring hedonistic Ted Cole's strutting about the grounds naked coupled with a few frank shots of Alice's goings-on with the summer's chauffeur.

You can't be blamed if you see similarities in tone between this film and Ang Lee's equally riveting "The Ice Storm"–an adaptation of Rick Moody's novel about a real-life ice storm in 1973 and how it parallels activities in upscale New Canaan, Connecticut. Tod Williams, whose "The Door in the Floor" is the writer-director's adaptation of the first one-third of John Irving's novel, "A Widow for One Year," captures the author's tone in every way, via strong performances from the entire cast, Terry Stacey's photography largely on location in East Hampton--the sunlit beauty of the beach, flora and fauna contrasting ironically with the somber feelings of the participants. Jeff Bridges, one of the most hirsute fellows around for a guy of fifty-five, comfortably inhabits the role of a writer whose relationships with the entire town's women lends notes of considerable humor to such a carefully-paced story, particularly when running for his life from a women disposed to kill him first with a knife and then with her vehicle. If this story is adapted from only the first one-third of John Irving's novel, can you imagine what a terrific read the remainder must be?

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Katen

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