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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.21%
Worth A Look62.26%
Average: 7.55%
Pretty Bad: 3.77%
Total Crap: 13.21%

5 reviews, 23 user ratings

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Door in the Floor, The
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by Collin Souter

"The best John Irving adaptation yet...and it's only half the book"
4 stars

I read John Irving’s massive novel A Widow For One Year about three years ago and never once believed it would make a great movie. Maybe a decent miniseries, but nothing more. Trying to cram the entire story of Eddie O’Hare and his affair with Marion Cole, wife of troubled novelist and “entertainer of children” Ted Cole, and its subsequent outcome without destroying the essence of Irving’s text would be too much of a burden for the filmmakers and probably too much of a chore for an audience. Irving sure can ramble and drone on, but he does possess the power to suck in a reader regardless. Thankfully, writer/director Tod Williams found a way to make it work. The only way.

He simply disregarded the second half of Irving’s 2-part epic soap opera and concentrated solely on Part 1. Normally for a filmed adaptation, readers would complain about too much being left out. Here, it makes perfect sense. The first half of A Widow For One Year seemed like a coming-of-age movie in and of itself. The second half of Irving’s novel depicts Eddie’s adult years and how he has yet to let go of his past with the Coles, most notably Marion, for obvious reasons. This movie version of Part 1 works so well in telling the whole story of A Widow For One Year that a second glance at the full novel almost makes it feel like the longest running coda in literature history, but still not a bad read.

“The Door In The Floor” refers to a children’s tale written by Ted (Jeff Bridges), a well-known author who lives with his wife Marion (Kim Basinger) and four-year-old child, Ruth (Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota). Their house has been shrouded in sadness since the death of their two teenage sons. In an effort to try and offset the feeling of woe, Ted takes in a writing student named Eddie (Jon Foster), who wants to learn as much as he can from this celebrated author. While there, Eddie manages to fill an emotional void for Marion. He lusts after her and gets caught doing so. Their relationship grows more complex, not because they have become lovers but because they seem so complacent about it.

Ted seems complacent about it as well, but we get the feeling that a shift in his priorities and his perception of the world has taken place as a result of the death of his two sons. He walks around naked without giving it a second thought. He draws nude models, but without much of a purpose. He barely shaves and takes to walking around in a dirty robe and slippers. He womanizes, drinks and talks like a writer who never stops writing (I know people who do this and it can get annoying). His relationship with Eddie has a master/servant feel to it. Eddie becomes his errand boy, even when the inevitable happens.

Irving made A Widow For One Year seem believable, if not a tad indulgent, but it can be a tricky task to pull off these dynamics on screen without the benefit of the author’s perception of them. Tod Williams and his cast manage to pull it off. The somber tone throughout seems enough to fill in any holes the story or characters might have. Their motivations may not seem apparent at the time, but the weight of their actions somehow does. These people have found each other at a time when they needed one another. These may not be healthy discoveries or relationships, but they serve these blind characters nonetheless and in a way we’re happy for them.

Jeff Bridges could not have been a better choice to play Ted. Bridges’ understated approach to his performances and his natural ease give Ted Cole a depth that most actors would not have lent to the part. There lurks a goodness in Ted that we wait to see boil to the surface, but his darker side also remains a compelling center to the movie. It could very well be his best performance since “Fearless.” Basinger, likewise, gives the clear sense of a woman who died long ago with her two sons and would like nothing more than to have them back in any way shape or form, yet resigned to a life of ghostly burdens. As Eddie, newcomer Jon Foster turns in a good first effort, able to inhabit a scene with the best of them.

And “The Door in the Floor” may well be the best adaptation of a John Irving novel yet. “The World According to Garp” had a brilliant cast and remains an entertaining movie, but it also seems like a laundry list of Garp’s Greatest Hits. It’s too much crammed into too little time. On the other hand, Irving’s own screenplay for “The Cider House Rules” sidestepped so much that the story kept building up to something significant, but kept ending up nowhere. He could very well be the only Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay to bastardize his own work. “The Door In the Floor,” however, perfectly captures the sexual confusion, the isolation and the dark humor of Irving’s book, while still giving the viewer a reason to go out and buy it (or keep it, as the case may be).

It may not be a perfect movie, but it moved me. It could make audiences wince and they might not respond favorably to the sexual humor, but you have to admire Williams’ attempt at preserving Irving’s work rather than softening it. It may not strike a chord with everybody, but the performances make the effort worthwhile. It’s a quiet summer entry, a movie devoid of noise or bombast, yet the emotions scream volumes. It may be a little hard to describe, but if you take the chance, the experience might leave a lasting impression. It’s the sound of a movie trying not to make a sound. Go ahead. Investigate. Open the door…

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originally posted: 07/16/04 23:33:35
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User Comments

1/07/11 evelyn hitten on all fours 5 stars
7/28/06 drydock54321 has some good moments 3 stars
2/28/06 Sully Bridges has a killer ass.....I mean Basinger, yeah, that's who I meant 4 stars
8/16/05 ES As with the Skeleton key, you have to sit through a pile of boring to get to the good parts 4 stars
7/26/05 Laura Lee Macleod poignant, central performances very good, Basinger and Bridges are good together 4 stars
6/18/05 stage artistic, but not at all moving or interesting. job well done, but why? 3 stars
5/05/05 kaz had me thinking about the movie for ages afterwards 4 stars
3/11/05 Nick Boyd Jeff Bridges gives an Oscar worthy performance 4 stars
2/02/05 Lynde Foy OMG What a long drawn out psychobabble-of-a-movie--the ending is too funny- 2 stars
1/27/05 Judy Kappen Liked it a lot 4 stars
1/26/05 lucas good performance fro Jeff; lackluster filmmaking 1 stars
12/22/04 albert jeff bridges ,best living actor in the world. 5 stars
9/05/04 ownerofdajoint basinger and bridges are both very good in this one 4 stars
8/15/04 jack sisson thought provoking and suspenseful 5 stars
8/13/04 tonycovatta Well acted, but a very disjointed script. the final symbol does not carry the burden 3 stars
8/08/04 sonia Loved this movie!!!!! 5 stars
8/02/04 Phil_Mtooth Jeff Bridges gives a wonderful performance 4 stars
7/29/04 fred wall looming cult classic, bridges superb 5 stars
7/26/04 Nuwanda Didn't know it was an adaptation, but could guess by the gaping narrative holes 2 stars
7/24/04 louise an emotional ride well worth taking 5 stars
7/19/04 twilliams606 great movie! 5 stars
7/09/04 Ray Solid drama 4 stars
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  14-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 14-Dec-2004



Directed by
  Tod Williams

Written by
  Tod Williams

  Jeff Bridges
  Kim Basinger
  Mimi Rogers
  Bijou Phillips

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