It’s a Cruel Cole Summer

I’m typically impatient when it comes to slow-paced and quiet movies, but I don’t speedily avoid them. That would be prejudice and admitting in having the attention span of a gnat. Slow and quiet do not always translate as a bore. Take “The Door in the Floor” for instance. It aptly steps in silent tippy-toes, since the film deals with a sensitive but invisible “elephant in the room.” (I’m going pretend you know what that meant and be in denial of your ignorance).

The movie’s symbolic elephant is the damaging loss of two teenage sons. As a way to heal, parents Ted and Marion Cole (Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger) conceive another child (Elle Fanning). Yet, the couple still can’t recover and to boot, their marriage seems damaged as well. One summer in Hamptons, they attempt a trial separation. They’ll take turns living with their daughter in the beach house. On other times, they would reside in an apartment in town. Meanwhile, a teenager named Eddie (Jon Foster) comes into picture. He arrives under the impression that he’ll be mentored by Ted, a children’s writer. But Eddie soon realizes he’s more like an assistant, a driver, and an awkward bridge between the husband and wife.

I think “The Door in the Floor” is an adult drama that’s not that stricted for adults. Usually it’s hard for me to relate, but the inclusion of a teen’s introspective POV makes the movie more accessible. The character of Eddie isn’t really the perfect kiddo. But the young man is realistic enough in both sincerity and horniness (he’s got the hots for Mrs. Cole). And to make things even more strange, Eddie sort of resembles one of the dead sons. Although it’s Eddie’s tricky yearning that hooked me to the movie, it’s the source of the Cole family’s dysfunction that had me planted in my seat. It’s psychologically intriguing to me how Ted and Marion act out in their ways. They have no scenes of fighting, as if they had fought enough and know each other’s buttons. And yet their conflict subtly continues through Eddie.

The performances here are exceptional. This is Basinger’s best role since “L.A. Confidential.” She’s quite the artist too for she uses her beautiful visage as a canvas to display vestiges of pain. As the hack-ish writer/artist Ted, Jeff Bridges has never been better. He reminded me of Jeff Daniel’s crusty role in “The Squid and the Whale.” Both characters are erudite authors who act out their immaturity in a civilized manner. And finally, there’s up-and-coming Jon Foster who holds his own against the veteran players. He plays Eddie’s awkwardness quite memorably. Thanks to his shy boldness, he had me laughing and squirming in some scenes. The movie’s story, based on a novel by John Irving, takes time to develop, but it develops beautifully. I was never once bored. And when the movie ends, it exits in an oddly clever way. I laughed. I cried. I was impressed. What can I say. I fell for “The Door in the Floor” slowly and quietly.

Grade: A-

Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Mimi Rogers, Bijou Phillips, Elle Fanning, and Jon Foster
Based on the novel by
John Irving
Screenplay by
Tod Williams
Directed by
Tod Williams
Rated PG-13 for strong sexuality and graphic images, and language