by Sheri Boggs
I don't know if you could call it a trend, but there seem to be a lot of movies lately that deal with dissolvin', cheatin', secretive and cruel couples. A few years ago it was In the Bedroom and Your Friends and Neighbors; more recently we've had Closer and We Don't Live Here Anymore. Based on roughly one-third of John Irving's novel A Widow for One Year, The Door on the Floor concerns itself with a couple in crisis. Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) is a celebrated children's author/illustrator whose most famous book - a sober little fable that could be a cross between Marc Chagall and Harold and the Purple Crayon - has earned him enough money to keep him from having to work all that hard on anything else. Following the untimely death of his two teenage sons, he's just asked his wife Marion (Kim Basinger) for a separation, while at the same time hiring a young Exeter student (Jon Foster) as an apprentice for the summer. Eddie, who wants to be a writer someday, looks up to the laconic writer but is soon completely smitten with the writer's estranged wife, who matter-of-factly seduces him one afternoon.
Much has been made of Jeff Bridges' performance - he roams around the lawns with the rangy insouciance of a Jeff Lebowski with money, a nice house and a well-stocked bar. For her part, Kim Basinger drifts in and out of her scenes like a lovely, grievous angel - even when caught in flagrante delicto, she is calm and unruffled. As the young prep school kid pulled into the maelstrom of this marriage, however, Jon Foster is amazing. At first puppy-like, then a force to be reckoned with on his own, Foster inhabits his role with an awkward, sweet ferocity.
None of this is to imply, however, that The Door in the Floor is easy to watch. Ted and Marion treat both Eddie and their young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning) like pawns. Ted's even worse with any attractive women crossing his path. (Mimi Roberts is both vulnerable and imposing as one of his conquests.) Director Tod Williams creates one of the prettier John Irving adaptations to date, but the soothing colors don't make his hard truths go down any easier.
Publication date: 12/23/04