A Widow for One Year by John Irving
To begin The Door in the Floor is based upon the novel A Widow for One Year by John Irving. The film tells the story of children's author Ted Crane (Jeff Bridges), his wife Marion (Kim Basinger), and their four-year-old daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning). Ted hires a personal assistant, Eddie (Jon Foster) to drive him around and help him with editing his children's books. The story that follows is one of adultery, sadness, and heartache. It is also very important to note that the story begins a few years after the death of Ted and Marion's sons, Thomas and Timothy. Within the first ten minutes Ted and Marion, really just Ted, decide that they need to separate for the summer because of the distance that has grown between them physically and emotionally.
Decline of a Marriage
The film shows the decline of the marriage between Ted and Marion Crane. As soon as the film begins we know that the marriage is destitute and dying. The opening conversation between Ted and four-year-old Ruth provides a definite window into how this story will play out. Ruth asks Ted to explain what death is, but there is one two word phrase that she utters that clarifies the world we are entering: "Mommy's sadder." This leads us to a shot showing a close up of Marion's eyes that happen to portray pain and sadness, and the most compelling thing about this shot is all we hear is the clicking of a car turn signal.
As the story unfolds it becomes obvious that Ted has always been a womanizer, and he has had an ample number of affairs. Ted uses women for his nude models, and he is very degrading in how he treats them. We can tell this through a few moments of dialogue and because of his luring gaze at the woman (Mimi Rogers) who is modeling for him during the course of the film.
It is simple to understand why the marriage between Ted and Marion disintegrates before our eyes. As already stated Ted is a womanizer who has clearly been involved in previous affairs. Marion undertakes a very disturbing adulterous relationship with Foster's Eddie. The affair between Marion and Eddie is not what causes the marriage to crumble. The culprit is Marion's inability to cope with tragedy, and the fact that she shuts herself off to any form of conversation about the tragedy.
While the story does dissect the decline of the marriage between Ted and Marion, the real star of the film is Ruth Crane. A very young Elle Fanning really shines in this film. The simple, out-of-focus, opening shot of Ruth dragging a chair across the floor to a series of pictures on the wall was for me spellbinding. The fact that we mostly see her face as her dad, Ted, shares stories about her dead brothers created an atmosphere for me that proved that the film is really about her. (This idea was solidified when I read the novel the film is based on A Widow for One Year, which tells the life story of Ruth. The film is only based off of the first third of the novel.) There was a genuine sadness I felt for Ruth as I watched this film unfold.
This film is a definite underrated masterpiece. Jeff Bridges has never been better. The story he tells Eddie near the end of the film is some of my favorite work by Bridges. Kim Basinger helped me understand her pain and sadness throughout the film. The score was haunting and beautiful. The biggest highpoint for me though had to be the use of silence in the film. While these moments are too few and far between for me, when silence was used my heart broke. Silence told the story of heartache and sadness for this family more than any words could have ever done.
It must be stated that this film is obviously not for everyone. It does contain a few slower moments. It goes with out saying that sex does play a large role in this story. The nude drawings that Ted creates with his model are played up for laughs, but it is quite graphic. Having said that though this is a film that must be seen. It is truly an underrated film.
I will not put the trailer here in this post because, as usual, the trailer does not do the film justice. Watch the film...not the trailer.
The Door in the Floor
Film Cast and Crew
Written and Directed by Tod Williams
Elle Fanning as Ruth Cole
Jeff Bridges as Ted Cole
Kim Basinger as Marion Cole
Jon Foster as Eddie O'Hare
Bijou Phillips as Alice
Mimi Rogers as Evelyn Vaughn