The Door in the Floor stars Jeff Bridges as children’s book author Ted Cole and Kim Basinger as his wife, Marion. The couples’ daughter, Ruth, is played by Elle Fanning. The family lives in an exclusive Long Island beach community and are haunted by the death of their two teenage sons.
The death of their sons leaves Ted and Marion’s marriage in jeopardy, and daughter Ruth largely in care of
the family nanny, Alice. Ted is a drunk whose driver’s license has been suspended. Over the summer he hires
Eddie (jon Foster) as his assistant and driver and separates from wife Marion. Eddie is disillusioned by Ted
and has an affair with Marion. Ted is embroiled in his own affair with a sketch model named Evelyn and is not
bothered by Marion’s affair until their daughter walks in on Marion and Eddie’s tryst. I don’t think it is too
much of a spoiler to say that this all ends badly.
If you have read John Irving’s A Widow for One Year, the plot of the movie may seem recognizable as it is
based on the first third of that book.
The movie is filled with a clear, gray light. As with most other films based on the work of John Irving, the plot itself is emotionally brutal, but there are odd moments of humor that expose the absurdity of human beings even, maybe especially, while under duress. These moments punctuate an otherwise meditative feel to the film, when they succeed. Other moments like this feel more awkward than awkwardly funny. It is unclear whether or not this is an intentional effect, but it definitely keeps the movie as whole in a dark and serious place.
The coldness between the characters is palpable and overwhelms the film, giving it a feeling of flatness in spite of the layered and dynamic plot. The most engaging performances were from the inimitable Jeff Bridges as the self-absorbed Ted Cole and Elle Fanning as the quiet and sensitive Ruth Cole. It is almost easy to miss what Kim Basinger is doing in this film, her performance is so understated at the beginning of the film that she seems barely present, as cold and flat as the gray light throughout the film. It is only through patience on the part of the viewer as the character progresses with her internal struggle, the beginning of “waking up” that you understand what is truly going on. Later, you understand that her performance is as brilliant as the other more obvious choices. The dilemma of communicating Marion Cole’s emotional state on screen is a difficult task at best and may be part of the sense that this film is not for everyone as stated earlier.
This is a good watch if your are in a contemplative mood.