The Door in the Floor

Adapting novels by John Irving can be a losing proposition. His novels tend to be extremely long, sometimes spanning decades. This is not good when a director wants to tell a story in a watchable amount of time. Irving stepped in to adapt The Cider House Rules to the big screen, taking decades of story and condensing it into a few years remarkably well. Tod Williams (The Adventures of Sebastian Cole) tried a different approach. He based The Door in the Floor on the first 180 or so pages of Irving's novel A Widow for One Year. This saves Williams from the indignity of mutilating any of Irving's words and allows him to tell a complete story. Better, he is able to keep Irving's wicked sense of humor in his adaptation, much more than any adaptation of Irving's thus far.

This comes out in the character of Ted Cole, wonderfully portrayed by Jeff Bridges (Seabiscuit, Masked and Anonymous). Bridges has an easy going, almost laid back persona. Cole is a children's author, prone to strange activity and weighed down by recent tragedy. It's an odd mix that Bridges handles well. He seems very free at some points, then extremely hesitant at others. Instead of working out issues in his marriage with his wife Marion (Kim Basinger, 8 Mile, Bless the Child), he pushes away from her. Marion is dealing with the same issues that Ted is, and copes by internalizing everything. She is a walking zombie, a shell of her former self. Basinger's performance is harder to gauge. She could be acting the hell out of the role, or just as easily be bored.

Into this mix falls Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster, Terminator 3, Life as a House), an admirer of Ted's that comes out to East Hampton for the summer to be Ted's assistant. Eddie wanted to learn about writing, but instead becomes embroiled in the battle between Ted and Marion. Williams uses the Eddie character to slowly introduce the viewer into the lives of the Coles. The audience sees the Coles through Eddie's eyes. He came to learn about writing, but Ted has him do more mundane things like drive him to his trysts with his current model Evelyn Vaughn (Mimi Rogers, Seeing Other People, Dumb and Dumberer). Ted also pushes Eddie, who resembles his dead son, into a sexual relationship with Marion.

The relationship between Eddie and Marion is incredibly depressing and creepy, and Eddie realizes this, yet continues for carnal reasons. Still, as the summer progresses, it is his presence in the Cole household that begins to change things. Whether it is for the better is hard to say, at least initially. The tone of The Door in the Floor is constantly shifting between tragedy and comedy. It's sometimes hard to tell when it is okay to laugh, and when it is too painful. It is this complex interplay, embodied excellently by Bridges, that really makes The Door in the Floor worth watching.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 51 minutes, Rated R for strong sexuality and graphic images, and language.

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