THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR
* (out of 5)
August 6, 2004
Jeff Bridges as TED COLE
Kim Basinger as MARION COLE
Jon Foster as EDDIE O’HARE
Elle Fanning as RUTH COLE
Bijou Phillips as ALICE
Mimi Rogers as EVELYN VAUGHN
Studio: Focus Features
Directed by: Tod Williams
BY KEVIN CARR
I’ve gotta stop going to the art house films. (NOTICE: Below, you will find my general reaction to art house films. To get to my review of “The Door in the Floor,” you can skip about seven paragraphs.)
There’s a theatre in my home town called the Drexel. It is one of only two locally owned and operated theatres in Columbus, Ohio, and it is also the only place in town that brings in the alternative films. Occasionally an “art house” film will break out of its traditional run and hit the multiplexes, but this only happens for special exceptions like “The Blair Witch Project” or “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
The Drexel has had a corner on this market for decades, even to the point that in Columbus, traditional art house films are often referred to as “Drexel movies.”
I love the Drexel, even if I don’t love their movies. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy an alternative independent film now and then. In fact, one of my favorite films of all time – “Heathers” – only played at the Drexel when it was released. Other spectacular “Drexel movies” that I’ve seen over the years include “American Movie,” “Reservoir Dogs” and “Akira.”
But these are the exceptions. When it comes to your average “Drexel movie,” I part ways with most critics. As politically incorrect as it sounds, I’m much more interested in seeing something like “Alien vs. Predator” than I am to see any of these limited run, critically acclaimed masterpieces.
The last “Drexel movie” premiere I went to was “The Dreamers,” which was lauded by many critics and considered by uber-critic Roger Ebert to be one of the best films of the year. I thought it stunk. I thought it was insipid, dull and out of touch.
I’ll probably continue to see the occasional screening of a “Drexel movie,” but I’ll have to keep my eye out for those opening in limited release that have those Drexel screening. It’s just that I feel bad to give these films bad reviews. Maybe I’m the anti-critic, who likes the mainstream stuff but can’t stomach the artsy stuff. After all, I don’t fault the folks who made “The Door in the Floor.” Clearly, it has a market – just not with my particular demographic.
After all, as a critic, I’ve been criticized by readers who thought I wasn’t in touch because I liked films like “Eurotrip,” “50 First Dates” and “Bringing Down the House.” Likewise, I’ve been called on the carpet because I said that Kirsten Dunst doesn’t really act any more and that I didn’t think “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” was all that and a bag of chips. You just can’t win in my position.
So, my apologies to the cast and crew of “The Door in the Floor” and any other art house “Drexel movie” that I’ve disliked in the past or will dislike in the future. But “The Door in the Floor” bored me. I didn’t get it. Here were Long Islandites who had such pathetic lives and were doing nothing to better themselves.
Ted (Jeff Bridges) and Marion Cole (Kim Basinger) recently lost their two eldest sons in a car accident. It seems to be a secret as to what happened, but when it is revealed, the big surprise is there is no big surprise. The events of the accident are as mundane as this film.
Instead of pouring themselves into their youngest daughter Ruth (played by Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning’s equally talented younger sister), they alienate her and shove her off on a nanny (Bijou Phillips). Because Ted lost his license several years ago, he hires a student (Jon Foster) to be his driver under the guise of being his assistant. Because Ted and Marion have grown apart and recently separated, the presence of a young man in the house leads to the cheap teenager fantasy of him having an affair with Marion. And he didn’t woo her like a 17-year-old Don Juan. No. He was caught masturbating to her underwear.
Yeah, right! Like that would ever happen! First, dorky 17-year-old boys are never so lucky to work as a live-in assistant for the husband of anyone who remotely looks like Kim Basinger. Second, I don’t care how many emotional issues this woman would have, finding a dorky 17-year-old boy with his boxer shorts at his ankles while he’s sweating over your bra and panties ain’t flattering. Third, any dorky 17-year-old boy who is boinking the trail-separated wife of his boss usually doesn’t keep his job – especially when their 4-year-old daughter walks in on them doing it doggie style.
So many artsy work by frustrated professors include a middle-aged man having an affair with a young student. Why is it considered unique to have it be a middle-aged woman and a young man. No matter what roles people play, it’s still just a cheap fantasy.
And don’t let the title fool you. While “The Door in the Floor” is much more intriguing than the original book’s title “A Widow for One Year.” “The Door in the Floor” is nothing more than a children’s book title written by Ted. Sure, the concept is steeped in symbolism, but frankly I was just too bored to sort it all out.
I can’t forgive a movie for boring me. I can be offended, upset, incensed or infuriated. Take everything I hold sacred, put it in a bucket and throw human waste on it. I don’t care. Just don’t bore me.
And “The Door in the Floor” did.