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Successful children's author and illustrator Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) and his wife Marion (Kim Basinger) live with their young daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning) in the upmarket East Hampton beach community. Ted takes on a 16 year old intern and would be writer Eddie (Jon Foster) to do odd jobs. But with the Cole marriage in shambles in the wake of a tragic accident that killed their two teenage sons, Eddie is drawn into a more complex role. Both Ted and Marion see one of their sons in Eddie, but they respond very differently. In the end, Eddie becomes the unwitting catalyst in the transformation of their lives.

Review by Louise Keller:
It is reassuring that the DVD of this gripping and deeply moving film about life, loss and love, delivers a satisfying handful of special features that bring an even greater richness to the characters. "Any movie goer who sees the film imagines he or she has read the novel, isn't much of a reader to begin with - whether it's a good film or not," says writer of the novel John Irving, in a riveting interview. He talks about the journey of his novel "A Widow for One Year" to the screen, explaining that the challenge of writing a screenplay is not only to be faithful to the source material, but to form a bridge or make a transition from things of your own. This compensates for the things you lose. "Good novels can be ruined by literalism," he says. In the case of The Door in the Floor, he was happy to leave the challenge to writer/director Tod Williams, who took the hard-to-handle subjects and dealt with them with haunting grace and sensitivity.

It's a film bristling with real emotions and the performances from Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger are extraordinary. The love between husband and wife shrivels into bitterness and resentment following the death of their two sons. The couple know each other's weaknesses only too well and they cope in different ways. He drinks and seduces women; she has turned to stone emotionally. Life goes on... until a stranger becomes the catalyst for change.

Adaptations usually attempt to tell as much of a novel's story as possible, but in this case, Williams concentrates on the first third of John Irving's book, titled A Widow For One Year. The writing is honest and we feel as though we know the characters.

Bridges' children's writer Ted seems like a no-nonsense sort of guy. He looks every bit the eccentric artist, thinking nothing of walking around naked and revealing his complicated life-style to Jon Foster's impressionable student Eddie. Eddie is gauche and inexperienced; little does he know that Ted is simply looking for a driver, a convenience that allows his façade of a life to continue, unhindered. He really has no interest in sharpening the young intern's writing skills. Basinger's Marion is living two lives. Now, she is like a beautiful painting, looking out at the world, but no-one can touch her. Her other life lies in the past, which she lives through the dozens of framed photographs hanging in the corridor. This life, when her beloved boys were alive, is far more real than even the waves that crash on the beach outside. She is happy to share these days with her pretty-as-a-doll four year old Ruth, portrayed by angelic-faced Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota, and equally talented. When she allows Eddie to fulfil his sexual fantasies with her, it is as if she is bestowing a gift on him and nothing more. Unlike Ted's self-gratifying seduction routines with Mimi Rogers' wealthy artist model, which go from flattery to degradation.

The film's climax comes unexpectedly, when Eddie is forced to make a steep learning curve for his writing skills. It's as though time stands still as Eddie rids himself of everything superfluous as he scribbles on scraps of notepaper in a framing shop.

As Ted says, it is the specific details that make all the difference to a story - the smell, the type of shoes, the colour of a buttoned cardigan. And so it is with all the details that make this film a powerful and emotionally shattering revelation. The title refers to a children's book, which tells about a place too horrifying to even talk about. Symbolically, the door in the floor leads to the abyss of our soul, where reality is raw and the pulse of life is too painful to imagine.

In the DVD audio commentary Tod Williams is joined by the cinematographer, editor, composer and costume designer. The 'Anatomy of a Scene' looks at the film's emotionally pivotal scene and there's a making of feature.

Published September 8, 2005

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CAST: Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Elle Fanning, Larry Pine, John Rothman, Harvey Loomis, Bijou Phillips, Mimi Rogers

PRODUCER: Anne Carey, Michael Corrente, Ted Hope

DIRECTOR: Tod Williams

SCRIPT: Tod Williams (novel by John Irving)


EDITOR: Affonso Goncalves

MUSIC: Marcel Zarvos


OTHER: Jeff Bridges (illustrator)

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 3, 2005

PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature commentary; the making of Door in the Floor; From Novel to Screen with author John Irving; Anatomy of a Scene


DVD RELEASE: September 7, 2005

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