Directed by Tod Williams, starring Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Mimi Rogers, Jon Foster and Elle Fanning.
Loosely adapted from a small part of John Irving's novel 'A Widow for One Year', Tod Williams' 'The Door in the Floor' is a badly told (and titled) tale that falls between the cracks of tragedy and coming-of-age drama. Adaptations are notoriously difficult to translate to the big screen, mainly because there is not enough time to linger on metaphors and literary conceits and the viewer cannot know the thoughts of the characters, only through action.
However, in more secure hands, two novels from Irving's considerable canon have been very successfully brought to life: 'The World According to Garp' and 'The Cider House Rules'. Both films commit the author's panache for tragedy and arch-satire faithfully to celluloid without falling prey to pretension or melodrama.
The same cannot be said of 'The Door in the Floor'. The film tells of the break-up of the marriage of Ted (Bridges) and Marion (Basinger) Cole, who some years early suffered the loss of their two teenage sons. Although the couple relocated to New Hampshire and attempted to rebuild their lives by having a daughter, Ruth (Fanning), things continue to fall apart. The house, littered with photographs of the dead sons, becomes a mausoleum and Ruth's incessant questioning regarding her brothers ensnares all three in a cycle of mourning. An eccentric children's author and serial womaniser, Ted does his best to look after Ruth while Marion is almost catatonic with grief. Poised for catastrophe and separation, Ted invites aspiring author and high school student Eddie O'Hare (Foster) into their lives to help topple the entire house of cards.
Thus tragedy and coming-of-age movie collide and with this director's limited palette merge into a morass of literary conceits regarding storytelling, myth and vaguely disturbing oedipal yearnings that all scream "THIS IS A METAPHOR!" at the viewer. Heavy handed to say the least, the director seems unsure of his territory, peppering the film with odd comic scenes that remain out of sync with the overall tone.
It is up to Bridges and Basinger then to save 'The Door in the Floor' from complete melodrama and given what they have to work with, this they do with aplomb. Ted is essentially a despicable egomaniac, while Marion is selfish and covetous of her grief. Yet Bridges and Basinger manage to bring humanity to their characters and they become almost likeable. Bridges is in fine form and adequately off-centre as the eccentric writer. However, it seems like a wasted performance here. Foster's Eddie remains callow, craven and wooden throughout.
Fans of Jeff Bridges or indeed John Irving may find something of merit here, but 'The Door in the Floor' is yet another adaptation that should be avoided. The novel, 'A Widow for One Year', is a far more satisfying project to invest time and money in.