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The Door In The Floor

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (Strong Sexuality, Graphic Images and Language)

Running Time: 111 Minutes

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

Based on the novel "A Widow For One Year" by: John Irving

Written for the Screen and Directed by: Tod Williams

 

Studio: Universal

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tod Williams, Director Of Photography Terry Stacey, Editor Affonso Gonçalves, Composer Marcelo Zarvos and Costume Designer Eric Daman, Frame On The Wall: Making Of Door In The Door, Novel To Screen: John Irving, Anatomy Of A Scene

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scenes (20 Scenes)

Released: December 14th, 2004

 

 

Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) is a successful children's author and illustrator, but who's life has been marked with sadness due to the death of his two sons years ago. During one crucial summer, he decides to separate from his wife Marion (Kim Basinger), who has also been greatly affected by their personal tragedy. Complicating matters is their needy young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning), and Ted's hiring of an assistant - the teenager Eddie (Jon Foster), who brings a lot more to the lives of Ted and Marion then they probably expected. As the pain of the past numb the emotional couple, they soon find themselves being thrusted into bigger turmoil - and quite possibly the discovery of who they've really become.

Based on John Irving's well-received and complex novel A Widow For One Year, writer and director Tod Williams has taken an interesting approach to adapting the book. Instead of trying to fit the book's sprawling time periods and characters into one movie, he's taken the first portion of the book and made a film solely based on that. The only major changes Williams has made is changing the time period from the late 1950s to present day, and as the book was told through Ruth's eyes, much of the action is viewed from Eddie's. These adjustments certainly work, and having the focus on Eddie - as being a catalyst between Ted and Marion - really hones the film's emotional core.

What also makes "The Door In The Floor" work so remarkably well is that Mr. Williams is not afraid of creating a satisfying and ultimately symbolic movie. The film is not only well written, well structured and well shot (the atmosphere of contemporary Long Island is portrayed particularly well), but it does not go for the obvious or dumb any of its story or characters down. Given the nature of the plot, it'd seem pretty easy to do this - and in my opinion, has been done with some other John Irving screen adaptations. Yet Williams is able to power and truly grip the audience by not revealing some important details until the very end, topped with some nice foreshadowing and subtle hints. Much of the joy in watching "The Door In The Floor" is discovering the characters, what they are doing, what they have done and what ends up playing out in the big picture (no pun intended). Williams also really gives his viewers a chance to think about the characters and come up with their own conclusions about them, as well as certain events within the film.

The layers the film packs on is pretty immense, and there are plenty of motifs and symbols to delve into. The most obvious is the film's title, as it comes from the name of the books Ted has written which says quite a bit about his life and marriage. There is also the importance of the beach, clothes, the covering of feet, stitches, the broken picture frame and the pictures Marion have photographed, and Ruth's dependency on them. Last but not least, there is also that haunting, final shot which says a remarkable amount without a single piece of dialogue. There is certainly a richness to the movie's subtext, and how even the smallest scene or gesture makes a remarkable point that is relevant to the story arc and characters.

The film is rather engrossing and uninhibited from the start, and really shines thematically. What makes it so intriguing is just how filled with emotion it is, even if the hearts of the characters may have seemed to turn cold. The story lends into some really heartcrushing moments which have a brutal honesty to them, as the film's central characters are forced to confront a lot of their problems - which are personal and situational. It's a pretty stunning portrait when it comes to the breakdown of a marriage and how a parent can't love her own child, yet there is some kind of connection to be had in that the movie also focuses on Eddie's sexual awakening and fast maturity. By the film's end there is something mutual to be had: the assistant has impacted his employer and his family, and vice versa.

What really helps "The Door In The Floor" come alive is the acting, and this truly is an actor's showcase. The always remarkable Jeff Bridges gives yet another mesmerizing performance. Bridges really highlights Ted Cole's vices, unbalanced nature and even ignorance in such a natural manner, but it really comes together during an emotional scene toward the end of the film. Kim Basinger certainly gives her best performance since "L.A. Confidential" as the wounded yet passionate Marion, who's embrace toward Eddie (who reminds Marion of her sons) has a dual nature. Elle Fanning shows she has some fine acting chops just like her big sister Dakota, but the main standout is newcomer Jon Foster. Foster really captures Eddie's patience realistically, as well as his own personal discoveries, mixed emotions and sexual awkwardness. Foster is yet another young actor to truly watch out for in the future.

"The Door In The Floor" is a perfect example in how to do a strong book adaptation. The film is a depressing and entertaining drama, but it's certainly literary in how it develops its story and the wounded characters and wraps them up with time-tested themes and empowering symbolism. I personally hope the film isn't ignored come Oscar time - not seeing Jeff Bridges and Tod Williams' screenplay at the very least being nominated will certainly come as a major disappointment to myself, and I'm sure many others. Whether you are an Irving fan or not, this is a serious and solid movie that deserves attention and marks Tod Williams' proper growth as a filmmaker.

 

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, "The Door In The Floor" features a pretty fine transfer that is unfortunately marked by a few flaws. The print itself could have been cleaner, as blemishes and scratches appear here and there. At sometimes the image looks a bit grainy, and there is some noise and edge halos apparent too. Otherwise, this transfer has a lot of good qualities. Detail is fine and sharp, the fleshtones look natural and the color saturation is pretty bold. The film's lovely locations are captured well in the transfer, particularly the beaches and exterior shots of the houses. The transfer has no edge enhancement either, which is a plus. In all, the image quality is pretty sharp and consistent.

 

Given the Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment (in English and French), "The Door In The Floor" isn't exactly a powerhouse when it comes to the audio. There's a lot of dialogue in the movie, and that all comes across really clear and crisp. There aren't too many surrounds to speak of, but there are a few. A lot of them are small in nature (such as outdoor noises, waves at the beach crashing and bikes) but there's a rare occasion where there's a bit of a jolt (usually involving cars). Much of the track's success comes from Marcelo Zarvos' haunting score, which builds nicely and soothingly from the channels but really there isn't too much going on this track - which is expected given the material of the film. English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

 

There are only four extras on the disc, but make no mistake - each last a considerable amount of time, and offer a sincere amount of depth into the creation of the film. First off is an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tod Williams, Director Of Photography Terry Stacey, Editor Affonso Gonçalves, Composer Marcelo Zarvos and Costume Designer Eric Daman. At times the commentary is a bit dry, but it really offers a lot of information about the film and how it came to me. There are occasional gaps of silence, but Williams changes forward with some good production stories and really gives listeners a strong impression of what he wanted to accomplish with the movie. The amount of participants don't hurt either, as the four production members joining Williams are varied. This leads to a good discussion on the nuances of the film's story, as well as their roles in the production - there's plenty of technical stuff to learn about the film's look, camera shots, costumes, editing style and score cues. This is not for the more casual fan of the film, but if you really dug "The Door In The Floor," then give this a listen.

Frame On The Wall: The Making of Door In The Floor lasts about twenty-six minutes and is a really great look at the movie that is far from promotional. Tod Williams discusses what drove him to make the movie, talks about the characters and how he approached John Irving to make the film. Producers Ted Hope and Anne Carey talk about their roles in making the movie, and the actors talk about their characters and the story (even Elle Fanning, who's just as creepily mature as Dakota). As expected there are stills, behind-the-scenes footage, slight rehearsal footage and clips from the movie to highlight what's being talked about. The film is overviewed quite well here, from its origins to how it came out in the end. Worth a look.

Running nearly sixteen minutes is Novel To Screen: John Irving, and it's an excellent interview. The author candidly talks about his involvement with the films based on his novels - how he's been involved sometimes, and how other times he wasn't at all and didn't care too much. Irving seems more than pleased in how Tod Williams chose to tackle his work, and seems incredibly impressed in what Williams added to the story. Williams also talks about what really makes a good literary adaptation, his characters, the actors and his overall story - there is a tremendous amount of insight to be gained here. If there's anything wrong with this, I wish it could have been even longer. Simply put, this is the best extra on the disc.

Finally, there's the Anatomy Of A Scene featurette taken from The Sundance Channel. Running twenty-five and-a-half minutes, this is a nice addition to have but given it takes some of its interviews from the first featurette on the DVD... it's a bit repetitive. Once again, we learn how Williams constructed his script, Irving's input, the thoughts of the actors and all of that. But at its center, the focus rests on the creation and shooting of one of the film's more challenging scenes (spoiler coming up - you've been warned!) - where Jeff Bridges is almost mowed down by Mimi Rogers. These Anatomy Of A Scene segments are great and have been included on many other DVDs before, but if you watched the first making-of feature then just fast forward through what you've already seen.

 

"The Door In The Floor" is a depressing, yet strong dramatic showcase topped off with fabulous acting. The DVD certainly delivers - the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is fine, the image quality is nice and while there are only a few extras, they are far from fluffy and really underline the film's themes and production. Fans of the movie should rush out and pick it up, if not, this makes a great rental for all you drama fans.