“The Door in the Floor” – 2005. Dir. Tod Williams. With Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger and Jon Foster.
“The Mommy told the boy once a day: don’t you ever, never, never, never, never open that door in the floor. But – he was only a boy…”
I’ve spoken a lot about this film. It’s my seventh best film of the decade, and in my personal opinion this is Jeff Bridges finest performance and same for Kim Basinger. This is a haunting film about love, loss and pain – three emotions that all roll up into one gigantic dramatic ball. The interesting thing about this film is its adaptation. It’s adapted from John Irving’s brilliant novel, “A Widow for One Year” and the film is based only on the first third of the novel.
Bridges stars as Ted Cole, a writer of children’s books. He describes himself as “an entertainer of children. And I like to draw (as he holds up his right hand that is stained with squid ink)”. He lives with his wife Marion on a beautiful home on the east coast. They live there with their young daughter Ruth (who is the main character of the novel, and the novel chronicles most of her life). Inside of their home, the walls are littered with black and white stills of their sons Thomas and Timothy who died in a car accident. Every single room in the house has framed images of the two boys, and Bridges spends most of his time carrying around his young daughter and a glass of scotch, explaining to her what the two boys are doing in each picture.
As we meet Marion, she’s completely shut down and shell shocked. She spends her time sitting in the yard, staring out into the sea. She is so beautiful. Her brokenness adds to her effect of sheer brokenness that she holds inside of her. Ted hires a boy who went to the same private school as Thomas and Timothy. His name is Eddie, and he’s the son of an English teacher at the school. The boy, Eddie, is an aspiring writer who wants to work as an assistant to
Ted. Ted hires the boy for many reasons – the main reason is so he can drive Ted around town because Ted lost his licenses due to the fact he drinks constantly. Also because Eddie looks like Thomas.
Ted asks Marion for a separation. He rents an apartment in the small town they live outside of. Ted and Marion rotate days and nights between the two homes so they each can spend time with Ruth, although Marion won’t be a mother to Ruth – she would “rather be no mother, than a bad mother”. As the summer begins, innocence is lost. Marion and Eddie strike up a love affair. The film is erotic with its scenes between Eddie and Marion – yet becomes haunting.
As the affair between Eddie and Marion progresses, we start to feel as if Ted has been pulling the strings all along. Ted Cole is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read and seen. He’s an incredibly sweet man that loves his daughter Ruth with all of his heart. He loves children. He’s an alcoholic and a womanizer as well. He holds this inner rage that he lets out in games squash. There is a great scene were Ted teaches Eddie how to play squash, and Ted begins to allude to the fact that he knows what’s going on between Eddie and Marion. Ted is very seductive, and draws in young women, and has them pose nude for him. His sketches start with a mother/daughter team, then just the mother, than the mother nude. His drawings start innocent and move to humiliation and degration until he is done with the woman, and then he moves onto the next.
My favorite scene in the film is where Ted Cole is at a local venue, and he reads his “children’s” story, “The Door in the Floor”. Bridges lets the story roll from his tongue, and looks up seductively from his glasses at the audience. Eddie stands in the back of the room; clicking a slide projector that displays Ted’s illustrations with the story (Bridges himself actually drew the illustrations). All of Ted’s stories (along with the images that we see) are brutish and incredibly deep stories that are for adults as much as it is for children. His story, “The Door in the Floor” is one of the best pieces of literature I’ve ever read, and I am very envious of John Irving for writing that. It’s perfect.
The film is masterfully done, it’s score and shot sequences are perfect and Bridges and Basinger just break your heart. Bridges brings me to my knees – seriously. This is a film that I share with people that mean a lot to me. The final scene – oh my God – the final scene will take your breath away…