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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 Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

There is so much going on in the richly rewarding THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR that it is hard to know where to start. The film is funny, sexy, tragic, touching and sometimes kind of sweetly bizarre. It is a character study of some intriguing individuals of whom you always sense there's more going in their lives than you'll ever know. As they peel away the layers of their lives, the characters reveal truths about themselves that show their flaws and their strengths, past and present.

A rarely better Jeff Bridges plays Ted Cole, a writer of 500 word -- word not page -- books. Yes, he writes children's books (one of his most famous is titled "The Door in the Floor"). He paints too. Preferring golden hats with mile-wide brims and wearing long flowing, almost biblical robes, the grizzled Ted instantly reminds one of an impressionist painter. Nice and polite but very egotistical, he possesses an unassuming but false modesty. "I'm just an entertainer of children, and I like to draw," he likes to tell audiences who are cooing over his talents.

One summer, Ted hires an assistant, Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster), an upper classman at Exeter, to come to his sprawling, ocean-front home. Eddie, an aspiring writer who hopes to learn from the great one, finds his duties embarrassingly modest. A typical day has him editing Ted's latest novel, changing a single semicolon to a comma. The next day, he is likely to be asked to change it back.

Most of Eddie's day is free, but there are some other assignments. When the sexy and sassy sitter Alice (Bijou Phillips from BULLY) is busy, it falls to Eddie to take care of Ted's young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning, who out acts her older sister Dakota by not overacting). Ruth is a real daddy's girl. Ted dotes on her, and together they spend much time at the family shrine, a series of carefully framed black-and-white photos that cover key walls in their house. Like a religious zealot repeating a spiritual text verbatim, Ruth can recite unchanged every word behind the stories for each of the photos. Not surprisingly, the photos turn out to be one of the story's keys.

The other member of the household is Marion, Ted's estranged wife. They have recently decided on a "trial, temporary separation" that looks certain to be made permanent. Right now they are swapping twenty-four periods at the house so that Ruth can always have one of them there.

Marion is played by the gorgeous Kim Basinger. Once Eddie lays eyes on her, he is infatuated and obsessed. Who wouldn't be? She is the center of all of his sexual fantasies. Rather than being insulted by his voyeurism, she offers herself up as his first lover. In no time, they are going at it like rabbits.

And speaking of sex. Remember when I said Ted was a painter? Well, his specialty is doing nude portraits of local women. He has a ritual he follows in creating his weird watercolors that results in some very unhappy models. Currently he is drawing Evelyn Vaughn (Mimi Rogers, who really bares it all). The first time we witness him in action, he takes an enormous, whole wheel of cheese with him into his studio. He sips wine, slices cheese and commands Evelyn to take her clothes off.

The exceedingly beautiful film, featuring stunning, painterly landscapes and golden hued images, has warm inviting music to match. It is a sumptuous delight for the senses.

Unusual but always believable, the characters in THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR are fascinating and funny. We've rarely had an opportunity to spend time with people like them before. The ending to their story is both poignant and humorous. It's a hard film to adequately describe, but it is a wonderful one.

THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR runs 1:51. It is rated R for "strong sexuality and graphic images, and language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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