The Door in the Floor

"Weak"

The Door in the Floor Review


Adapted from the first third of John Irving's sprawling novel A Widow For One Year, Tod Williams' The Door in the Floor is a high-minded piece of manipulative melodramatic bunk (with a horrible title) that rides a rising crest of pretension before splashing moviegoers down into a cold bath of self-indulgent faux tragedy. The story of an unhappy couple who welcome, with calamitous consequences, a young teen into their lives during a summer at their beachfront home, it's a disingenuous film that deals in the upper-class ennui and sorrow of The Ice Storm and Moonlight Mile, desperately clinging to an affected pose of photogenic misery but failing to even approximate reasonable human emotion or behavior.

Eccentric children's book author and womanizer Ted Cole (an adequately flaky Jeff Bridges) lost his two sons in a car accident years ago, and though he and his wife Marion (Kim Basinger) have relocated to a quaint New Hampshire town and attempted to fill the void in their lives by having daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning), they're still reeling from their family catastrophe and poised to separate. In a supremely idiotic decision, Ted hires Eddie (Jon Foster), a young student from Phillips Exeter Academy who looks just like his deceased oldest son, to be his assistant. However, the freewheeling writer - whose hipness is supposedly confirmed by his penchant for walking around naked in front of others, making erotic sketches of his mistress Mrs. Vaughn (Mimi Rogers), and listening to skanky hip-hop before watching Girls Gone Wild - makes a grave mistake by having the kid work during the day at his wife's nearby apartment. Eddie takes a masturbatory liking to Marion's bra and panties, and when he's caught in the act of self-gratification by the female object of his desire, she's all too willing to accommodate his Mrs. Robinson-patterned longings.

Marion's amorous relationship with Eddie reeks of nasty pseudo-incestuous cravings, but the film is less interested in the particulars of its characters' relationships than it is in the image of Basinger's unbearably one-dimensional bereaved mother comatosely gazing off into the distance or tearing up as she mechanically rides her underage buck in bed. Ruth compulsively stares at, and plays patty cake with, the candid black-and-white photos of her departed siblings hanging in the hallway, and writer/director Williams' camera - like Ruth - fetishizes these death-infused portraits of youthful exuberance with a repulsive calculation. Yet like a conductor bereft of rhythm, the director orchestrates his film's anguished narrative without a semblance of tonal consistency, oddly interspersing out-of-place comedic interludes - such as a chase scene involving Ted and the SUV-wielding Mrs. Vaughn - into the laboriously gloomy proceedings.

A recurring shot of a car's ceaselessly clicking left turn signal annoyingly foreshadows the revelation about the Cole's sons' fatal accident, just as Williams' stuffily somber cinematography and Marcelo Zarvos' melancholy score contribute to the film's bogus emotional preciousness. The Door in the Floor's selfish protagonists indulgently wallow in despair, but - aside from the overpowering final image which mirrors Ted's novel about a fearsome hole that children mysteriously disappear down - the film's wearisome vision of pathos approximates the weight of grief without ever bothering to realistically confront the unavoidable process of healing. Instead, it's a camera-friendly depiction of a destructive family unit comprised of a perverted louse of a father, a despicable deserter of a mother, a cloying daughter who's distressingly stuck in the past, and a surrogate son whose arrogant sense of superiority is only exceeded by his naiveté. "I've stayed too long," is Marion's blank, insufficient explanation for her impending abandonment. After two turgid hours with these self-pitying characters, I felt the same way.

Take that chair to the stairs and the table to the gable.



The Door in the Floor

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Friday 17th September 2004

Box Office USA: $3.6M

Distributed by: Focus Features

Production compaines: Revere Pictures, Focus Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 94 Rotten: 47

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Ted Cole, as Marion Cole, as Ruth Cole, as Eddie O'Hare

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