Alt Film Guide
Classic movies. Gay movies. International cinema. Socially conscious & political cinema.
Home Film ArticlesMovie Reviews The Door in the Floor (Movie 2004): Impeccable Kim Basinger in Imperfect Drama

The Door in the Floor (Movie 2004): Impeccable Kim Basinger in Imperfect Drama

The Door in the Floor Kim BasingerThe Door in the Floor movie with Kim Basinger: As a bereaved middle-aged mother sexually involved with a teenager in Tod Williams’ handsomely mounted psychological drama, the 9½ Weeks actress delivers what may be her most effective performance to date.
  • The Door in the Floor (movie 2004) review: Tod Williams’ psychological/family drama fails to reach its potential due to the screenwriter-director’s uneven – as in, intriguingly mature/appallingly juvenile – handling of the film’s characters and situations.
  • On the plus side, Kim Basinger delivers a flawless performance – possibly a career best – as a grieving East Hampton wife and mother who becomes sexually involved with her husband’s teenage assistant.

The Door in the Floor (movie 2004) review: Kim Basinger is the highlight of dramatically uneven family drama

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

At times, director-screenwriter Tod Williams’ psychological/family drama The Door in the Floor has the look (cinematography by Terry Stacey) and sensibility of a well-crafted, adult-oriented film – something Claude Sautet, Bernardo Bertolucci, or Louis Malle might have come up with a decade or two (or three) ago.

At other times, however, The Door in the Floor, like the vast majority of American movies, suffers from a condition known as arrested development.

The chief problem with this film adaptation of (the first third of) John Irving’s 1998 novel A Widow for One Year lies in Williams’ uncertainty whether the subject of a 40-something woman having an affair with a teenager – and the affair’s incestuous overtones – should be treated with erotic seriousness or adolescent goofiness.

A similar issue derails the filmmaker’s handling of the sexual escapades of his middle-aged male protagonist. Those are depicted with as much flair – or lack thereof – as what one would expect to find in Porky’s or American Pie, or, perhaps even more galling, Grumpy Old Men.

Such an approach is particularly grating not only for throwing the drama off balance (while signaling that Williams doesn’t trust his audience), but mainly because if The Door in the Floor had kept its focus on the story’s delicate observations about human nature it could have become the outstanding motion picture it aims to be.

What’s the word for parents who have lost their children?

In brief, The Door in the Floor revolves around the troubled marriage of a well-to-do middle-aged couple in East Hampton, located about 100 miles from Manhattan: famous children’s book author Ted Cole (Best Actor Independent Spirit Award nominee Jeff Bridges) and his wife, Marion (Kim Basinger), both incapable of coping with the death of their two teenage sons in a car accident.

While Marion has shut herself off emotionally, even ignoring her little daughter, Ruth (Elle Fanning), Ted tries to find solace in his writing, and in the arms and between the legs of numerous women.

Eddie O’Hare (Jon Foster) is the catalyst that will make Ted and Marion’s relationship go over the edge. A teenage prep-school student hired for the summer to help Ted with literary and household chores, Eddie becomes sexually involved with and enamored of Marion, who sees him as a replacement for one of the sons she has lost.

Victims all

As mentioned further up, Tod Williams’ mishandling of the sexual elements in The Door in the Floor are a serious problem. One memorable (for all the wrong reasons) example: a scene in which Ruth catches Eddie penetrating her mother doggie-style belongs to a(n NC-17?) Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy flick.

Compounding matters, Williams can’t resist some unnecessary moralizing, poking fun at Ted for being a middle-aged man who enjoys having sex with multiple partners. (Admittedly, a nude Mimi Rogers scene – she’s Ted’s sketching model – is both stylish and, for an American movie, daring. In truth, Rogers is one of the film’s key points of interest.)

Elsewhere, the filmmaker must be given credit for portraying his characters as neither heroes nor villains, but unwitting victims. Ted and Marion are victims of the past and of life’s randomness; the interloper Eddie, for his part, has fallen prey to youthful idealism and selfishness.

Thus, Ted’s sexual proclivities and Marion’s emotional distance are depicted as emotional wounds that have not and will not heal – though, regrettably, Ted’s wounds make him look stupidly immature (he’s quite a bit more cunning in the novel) while Marion’s make her look coolly dignified. Indeed, even Marion’s use of Eddie as a comforting tool comes across as an act of (however internalized) desperation, not egocentric calculation.

As for Eddie, when he begins the affair with his boss’ wife, it’s more than just a case of teen lust. He does believe that Ted lacks what it takes to give Marion the tenderness and affection she so desperately craves. Who better for the job than Eddie himself?

The Door in the Floor Jeff Bridges Kim BasingerThe Door in the Floor with Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger as grieving parents dealing with their pain in different ways. Bridges goes for noncommittal sexual encounters; Basinger takes the unemotional Mary Tyler Moore route, plus some steady sex with a teenager.

Jeff Bridges disappoints

In order to convey its protagonists’ out-of-kilter inner workings, The Door in the Floor needed – and got – top talent. Yet the final result has been disappointingly mixed.

Jon Foster (of TV’s Life as We Know It) succeeds in bringing forth Eddie’s callowness and self-righteous determination, but the other male side of the triangle, Jeff Bridges – normally a first-rate actor (Starman, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, etc.) – overdoes the effusiveness of his free-spirited, sexually “adventurous” writer.

True, Ted Cole is doing his utmost to take his mind away from the emotional void created by the death of his sons and his crumbling marriage, but only sporadically does Bridges express the pain that underlies his character’s outward exuberance.

Superb Kim Basinger

Kim Basinger, on the other hand, is a revelation, delivering what is possibly the best performance of her 25-year movie career – Best Supporting Actress Oscar or no (L.A. Confidential, 1997).

The simmering volcano underneath Marion’s despondent behavior is painfully tangible without Basinger ever feeling the need to telegraph her emotions to the audience. Hers is a beautifully restrained performance – without an iota of self-pity – that stands as the film’s emotional axis.

In fact, although Basinger’s role is smaller than either Bridges’ or Foster’s, The Door in the Floor, at its best, belongs wholly to her.

The Door in the Floor (movie 2004) cast & crew

Director: Tod Williams.

Screenplay: Tod Williams.
From John Irving’s 1998 novel A Widow for One Year.

Cast: Jeff Bridges. Kim Basinger. Jon Foster. Elle Fanning. Mimi Rogers. Larry Pine. Bijou Phillips. John Rothman.

The Door in the Floor (Movie 2004)” notes

Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger The Door in the Floor movie images: Focus Features.

The Door in the Floor (Movie 2004): Impeccable Kim Basinger in Imperfect Drama” last updated in April 2023.

Recommended for You

Leave a Comment

*IMPORTANT*: By using this form you agree with Alt Film Guide's storage and handling of your data (e.g., your IP address). Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion: Feel free to disagree with us and write your own movie commentaries, but *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive, inflammatory, spammy/self-promotional, baseless (spreading mis- or disinformation), and just plain deranged comments will be zapped. Lastly, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Read More