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The Door in the Floor /

Rated: R

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Elle Fanning, Bijou Phillips

Directed by: Tod Williams

Produced by: Anne Carey, Michael Corrente, Ted Hope
Written by:
Tod Williams
Distributor: Focus Features


Jeff Bridges in Focus Features' The Door in the Floor
Kim Basinger in Focus Features' The Door in the Floor
Jon Foster in Focus Features' The Door in the Floor

     I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Disappointment sucks. There are movies that viewers will have high expectations for, and be let down by, from the first frame of video until the last. However, The Door in the Floor doesn’t fall into this category. It is an impressive film from the get-go, boasting strong acting and a bold story. And it works, for about an hour. But, during its final fifty minutes, the picture experiences a steady decline, and winds up unsatisfying. I was hoping for a door to appear in the isle-way floor of the theatre that I could hide under, until the credits began to role. The final product let me down so much, in fact, that I wanted to curl up into a ball and shield my eyes from it, on occasion. The third act isn’t so much bad as it is anticlimactic, but, nevertheless, left me feeling almost entirely empty.

     Jeff Bridges shines in the best performance in the film, as Ted Cole, a writer of bizarre childrens’ books, which are inspired by dysfunctional situations, to say the least. His work has a following, but it is odd, and dark, considering the obvious target audience. The pictures in the books, which illustrate the typically one-hundred-word-pages, are derived from Ted’s monotonous depiction of his naked, women models. One could imagine why his mind is responsible for many problems in his home-life. He and his wife, Marion (Kim Bassinger), are about to split up. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have her fair share of perverted quirks, too. This only makes life tougher for their daughter, Ruth (Elle Fanning, who I cannot believe was allowed to participate in witnessing the film’s more risqué scenes, on camera).

     The film takes place during a summer in which Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster) comes to work for Ted, as his assistant. A high school student, Eddie would love to be a writer in the future. From the beginning, he maturely sees the experience as one in which he will learn many things about penning books. Instead, he is bombarded by just the opposite, as he enters a world of shock, that of the Coles. While he is able to take care of Ruth better than both of her parents, the troubled couple is hard to handle, for him. All of the chores that he must do for Ted are primarily busy-work; the main thing he must do is drive his “teacher” around town, (Ted lost his drivers license three months prior). None of these entail criticisms or inspiration for Eddie’s own writing. Even worse, he begins to have an affair with Marion, and they become rather obsessed with the sexual aspect of their uncanny relationship. How does The Door in the Floor come to a conclusion? It misguidedly centers on a car crash, which killed Marion and Ted’s two sons, and relies upon the incident to tie up all of its loose ends. But, it ends up creating more plot-holes; the movie could practically be mistaken for a piece of Swiss cheese.

     I suppose The Door in the Floor’s failures are a result of its own ambition. This is just one occasion in which an art-house film tries to be too many things, and ends up having to drop too many of the elements it’s juggling, as a result. Instead of just focusing on two or three stories, it pushes its luck, by incorporating five major ones into the central plot. Ted and Marion’s marriage problems, Ruth’s development as a result, Marion and Eddie’s romance and its effects, Ted’s writing and drawing compulsions, and the practiced relationship between employers and their clientele are all essential matters in the film’s progression. How are all of these studies supposed to be concluded by a mere explanation of a haunting event in the main family’s past, to a boy who has gotten to know them all too well? More importantly, is there any possible way such a gigantic task could’ve been completed?

     Tod Williams, who wrote and directed The Door in the Floor, is essentially a no-name. He made another movie called The Adventures of Sebastain Cole, a few years back, which I had never heard of, before I looked into his track record. For the most part, Williams is able to carry this film just fine. However, with the beautiful opening, and engrossing ideas involved in it, The Door in the Floor should’ve been much better than it turns out to be. However, audiences who would like to attend a thoughtful, slow-moving, atmospheric picture will find themselves with few better options this weekend than this picture. It is ultimately a letdown, and some may refer to it as ridiculous and perverted, but even so, it is a functioning piece of art. Pictures that belong in such a category are all too rare nowadays, and usually always, if, in this case, barely, merit a look.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.8.2004)

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