The Door in the Floor
June 25, 2005
Based on John Irving’s novel, “A Widow for One Year, Tod Williams follows up his critically-lauded independent film, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole (1998) with the even more accomplished and emotionally textured The Door on the Floor (2004). It is a fascinating look at the troubled inner lives of a married couple who have drifted apart as a result of a personal tragedy.
Ted Cole (Bridges) is a successful children’s book author. His wife, Marion (Basinger), is an unhappy woman for reasons that are initially unclear. They are separated on a trial basis, living in different houses. Thrown into the mix is Eddie (Foster), a college student, invited to work for Ted as his assistant during the summer. Eddie isn’t quite prepared for Ted’s frankness as he tells the young man his responsibilities and the situation between with his wife.
Eddie is the audience surrogate, our introduction to this specific world. Through Eddie we begin to see the complicated relationship between Ted and Marion. Eddie is something of an outsider; he doesn’t hang out with kids his age during his spare time. He crosses paths with Marion at the movies. She is also lonely and invites him out to dinner. Eddie becomes attracted to her and they become involved in a passionate affair (shades of Summer of ’42). There is a tangible heat between them as one senses the growing attraction between these two characters.
The film takes its time developing the relationship between Eddie and Marion in a realistic way. We also get to know these characters as the film peels back the layers, exposing the motivations for why Ted and Marion act the way they do towards each other. These are deeply emotionally damaged people that no longer relate to one another and they use Eddie as their go-between. He is unknowingly caught in the middle but during the course of the summer goes from being a passive character to more pro-active.
Kim Basinger brings a haunted, damaged look to her role, hinting at a troubled past. She often gives a look that suggests an entire inner life we will never fully know. As always, she looks beautiful and it is easy to see why Eddie is attracted to her. He is Marion’s diversion from an unhappy marriage because he makes her feel wanted and desired—something that is missing from her life. Basinger conveys this all so well with looks, gestures and the way she carries herself.
Ted starts out as some kind of benign Ernest Hemingway-esque figure but there is darkness underneath the surface that Jeff Bridges hints at expertly. He is damaged, like Marion, but he internalizes it while Marion lets it show. Ted is a deeply flawed character, he does many unlikable things but still comes across as somewhat sympathetic and this due to Bridges’ natural charisma.
“Frame on the Wall: The Making of Door in the Floor” briefly explores the origins of the movie. After making Sebastian Cole, Tod Williams read John Irving’s book and found himself identifying with the Ted Cole character. He met Irving and told him about his vision of the film and got him involved in the casting and other creative decisions. This is a very thoughtful look at the movie with insightful observations that elevate it from the usual press kit featurette material.
“Novel to Screen: John Irving” is an interview with the famous author. He touches upon some of the cinematic adaptations of his novels. Usually, he takes a hands-off approach but was drawn to Williams’ adaptation. The filmmaker wanted only to film the first third of the novel. Irving also speaks frankly about the differences between his book and the film.
“Anatomy of a Scene” is a program that originally aired on the Sundance Channel and examines a specific scene from the movie. It dissects how the various elements—script, cinematography and sound—come together to create a scene.
Finally, there is an audio commentary by Tod Williams, director of photography Terry Stacey, editor Affonso Goncalves, costume designer Eric Damon and composer Marcelo Zarvos. This is a technically oriented track as they talk about how shots were constructed. Everyone chimes in and talks about their contribution to the movie.
The Door in the Floor examines complex adult relationships in a realistic way. They are messy, fun, sensual and painful—a jumble of emotions—part of the human experience. In this day and age it is something of a rarity: an adult drama that is intelligent and provocative without being obviously sensational about it (like Adrian Lyne movies).