THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR written and directed by Tod Williams from John Irving's novel A Widow For One Year, produced by Anne Carey, Michael Corrente and Ted Hope, with Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Eddie O'Hare, Elle Fanning and Mimi Rogers. 109 minutes. A Focus Features production. An Odeon Films release. Opens Wednesday (July 14). For venues and times, see Movies, page 83. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Based on the the first third of John Irving's A Widow For One Year, The Door In The Floor is a touching portrait of a marriage in slow collapse following the death of the family's sons in a car accident. Jeff Bridges stars as a writer of children's books, Kim Basinger is his wife, and Eddie O'Hare plays the student assigned to become Bridges's assistant who comes between the two.
Attempting fidelity to Irving's work (director Tod Williams started the project when Irving was coming off his Oscar for The Cider House Rules), the filmmakers have eschewed straightforward narrative for a line of complex emotional confrontations. There is a story, certainly, but it's subsumed in the messiness that continually assaults the characters as they try to find order in a world that has betrayed their expectations.
Williams continuously sets their anomie, Bridges's half-hearted infidelity with Mimi Rogers, Basinger's far from indifferent affair with O'Hare, against the moneyed calm of the East Hamptons, where wealthy New Yorkers summer and every shop on the town's main street seems designed for maximum quaint. It's a mood piece that sets the atmosphere of jangling discontent against the kind of luxury that pretends to be its opposite. And privilege offers no protection.
Bridges and Basinger are first-rate. No surprise from Bridges, but it's nice to see Basinger appear in what is virtually her first good film since she won the Oscar for L.A. Confidential in 97. Williams has found - as Curtis Hanson realized in L.A. Confidential - that her beauty masks an essential emotional fragility that works beautifully for the character.