December 26, 2004

MOVIES: The Door in the Floor (Tod Williams, 2004)

I had missed The Door in the Floor during its brief theatrical run last spring, and I'm happy to have seen it now on DVD. It's adapted from part of a John Irving novel, and tells the story of a teenager who gets caught up in the collapse of a marriage.

Jeff Bridges plays Ted Cole, a successful author of children's books who hires Eddy O'Hare (Jon Foster) to be his assistant for the summer. Ted doesn't really need an assistant, and there's not much for Eddy to do but chauffeur Ted from place to place.

Eddy arrives at the Cole home just as Ted and his wife Marion (Kim Basinger) are beginning a trial separation; the stress in their marriage is at least partly caused by the recent deaths of their teenage sons in an auto accident.

Marion's lonely and depressed; Eddy's 16 and bored -- well, you can guess where that's going. But even as it goes there, it's not quite as predictable as it might be, and the story is told with such precision and attention to detail that it's always compelling.

The three central performances are very fine indeed. Kim Basinger is a terribly inconsistent actress, but she's good here, and her tendency to wooden inexpressiveness is a good fit with Marion, who's still in shock from the loss of her sons. Jon Foster captures perfectly the teenage romanticism that allows a boy to believe he's in love with the first woman to pay attention to him, and Jeff Bridges is outstanding as a man whose awareness of what's happening gets in the way of his understanding why it's happening. As the Coles' 4-year-old daughter, Ruthie, Elle Fanning is better than most child actors (I assume that she must be the younger sister of Dakota Fanning; they certainly look alike).

It's a quiet, subtle movie; well worth the time.

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