Door in the Floor
A superlative performance by Jeff Bridges and an excellent turn by Kim Basinger.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
A few recent films have treated the dysfunction attendant upon the death of a child to a loving couple. A movie or two has also touched on the sexual relationship between an older woman and a younger man.
"Door in the Floor," based on John Irving's novel "Widow for a Year," combines both subjects in a sometimes disturbing, always absorbing screenplay that has a superlative performance by Jeff Bridges and an excellent turn by Kim Basinger.
Since "The Graduate," the possibility in films of a younger man/older woman theme has become as acceptable as the traditional reverse. In writer/director Tod Williams' ("The Adventures of Sebastian Cole") "Door in the Floor," the young 16-year-old Eddie is played by Jon Foster ("Life as a House") with an annoying lack of charisma and animation. However, Kim Basinger ("8 Mile") as his love interest, Marion, a mother who has lost 2 sons about his age in an auto accident, for which she feels some responsibility, appropriately lacks animation because of her trauma, a kind of "Stepford" mother exorcising her demon by sleeping with a son's surrogate. That acting is believable even if her "method" may be thinking of her combat with a notorious Baldwin boy.
Even better than Basinger is Jeff Bridges ("Seabiscuit") as her husband, Ted, a failed adult fiction novelist successfully writing and illustrating children's books. Bridges plays this drunk, womanizing father with a dignity not usual for someone sliding to destruction through a social behavior that preceded the deaths of his sons. Bridges is the epicenter of the films' storms about infidelity both to his wife and his children, including his only living child, a little girl inordinately attached to photos of her departed brothers. When Bridges states he is " an entertainer of children, who loves to draw,'' the actor perfectly evokes his character's understated hubris.
"Door's" own center moves slowly when depicting the intricate dance between Marion and Eddie, especially when juxtaposed with Ted's frenetic philandering. In the end, however, it forcefully depicts the corrosive effect of loss that comes in at several angles for any marriage.
"Tadpole" (2001) also helps take the heat off the infamous January-May for men and shares it with women by chronicling the sexual adventures of a 15-year-old prep school intellectual with his step-mother's 40 year-old best friend while he really wants his step mom. Only "In the Bedroom" (2001) has treated the subjects of younger man/older woman and family loss as well. The three films show that these themes will not go away; they didn't for the Greeks either.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.