There is so much going on in the richly rewarding THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR that it
is hard to know where to start. The film is funny, sexy, tragic, touching and
sometimes kind of sweetly bizarre. It is a character study of some intriguing
individuals of whom you always sense there's more going in their lives than
you'll ever know. As they peel away the layers of their lives, the characters
reveal truths about themselves that show their flaws and their strengths, past
A rarely better Jeff Bridges plays Ted Cole, a writer of 500 word -- word not
page -- books. Yes, he writes children's books (one of his most famous is
titled "The Door in the Floor"). He paints too. Preferring golden hats with
mile-wide brims and wearing long flowing, almost biblical robes, the grizzled
Ted instantly reminds one of an impressionist painter. Nice and polite but
very egotistical, he possesses an unassuming but false modesty. "I'm just an
entertainer of children, and I like to draw," he likes to tell audiences who
are cooing over his talents.
One summer, Ted hires an assistant, Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster), an upper
classman at Exeter, to come to his sprawling, ocean-front home. Eddie, an
aspiring writer who hopes to learn from the great one, finds his duties
embarrassingly modest. A typical day has him editing Ted's latest novel,
changing a single semicolon to a comma. The next day, he is likely to be asked
to change it back.
Most of Eddie's day is free, but there are some other assignments. When the
sexy and sassy sitter Alice (Bijou Phillips from BULLY) is busy, it falls to
Eddie to take care of Ted's young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning, who out acts her
older sister Dakota by not overacting). Ruth is a real daddy's girl. Ted
dotes on her, and together they spend much time at the family shrine, a series
of carefully framed black-and-white photos that cover key walls in their house.
Like a religious zealot repeating a spiritual text verbatim, Ruth can recite
unchanged every word behind the stories for each of the photos. Not
surprisingly, the photos turn out to be one of the story's keys.
The other member of the household is Marion, Ted's estranged wife. They have
recently decided on a "trial, temporary separation" that looks certain to be
made permanent. Right now they are swapping twenty-four periods at the house
so that Ruth can always have one of them there.
Marion is played by the gorgeous Kim Basinger. Once Eddie lays eyes on her, he
is infatuated and obsessed. Who wouldn't be? She is the center of all of his
sexual fantasies. Rather than being insulted by his voyeurism, she offers
herself up as his first lover. In no time, they are going at it like rabbits.
And speaking of sex. Remember when I said Ted was a painter? Well, his
specialty is doing nude portraits of local women. He has a ritual he follows
in creating his weird watercolors that results in some very unhappy models.
Currently he is drawing Evelyn Vaughn (Mimi Rogers, who really bares it all).
The first time we witness him in action, he takes an enormous, whole wheel of
cheese with him into his studio. He sips wine, slices cheese and commands
Evelyn to take her clothes off.
The exceedingly beautiful film, featuring stunning, painterly landscapes and
golden hued images, has warm inviting music to match. It is a sumptuous
delight for the senses.
Unusual but always believable, the characters in THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR are
fascinating and funny. We've rarely had an opportunity to spend time with
people like them before. The ending to their story is both poignant and
humorous. It's a hard film to adequately describe, but it is a wonderful one.
THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR runs 1:51. It is rated R for "strong sexuality and
graphic images, and language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes