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Rated 2.96 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Shattered Lives
by Diana Saenger

One always imagines writers of children’s books as kind, gentle, imaginative people who have an insightful connection to kids. In The Door in the Floor, adapted from A Widow for One Year by John Irving, Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) is not that kind of person.

Perhaps Ted was at one time more the picture-perfect, kid-friendly sort of guy, but life in the beach community of East Hampton, New York, has become anything but normal. For starters, he and his wife Marion (Kim Basinger) lost their two teenage sons in a car accident. They each blame the other for the deaths; but like two new flower shoots in a pot, Ted gets re-rooted in his life as a writer and painter, while Marion -- a lifeless, mere shadow of her former self -- barely survives.

An unwilling pawn in the tragedy is the Cole's 4-year-old daughter, Ruth (Elle Fanning). A delicate child who came along after her brothers’ deaths, Ruth has unfulfilled needs she must compensate for. She understands that her mother is afraid to love again for fear she couldn’t survive another deep loss; so Ruth turns oblivious to her father’s peculiar lifestyle and subsists in his world of make believe.

Marion and Ted no longer live together and take turns having Ruth on alternate days. Although he still loves Marion, Ted has given up on healing the gaps in their marriage. His infidelities, extreme behaviors, and nudist tendencies are not positive reinforcements to mending a relationship.

So alone in her sorrow, Marion’s vulnerability is exploited when Ted hires Eddie O’Hare (Jon Foster), a summer intern, who becomes infatuated with Marion. The two begin a sexual relationship that Ted ignores and Marion loses herself in.

A film that languishes with tragedy, comedy and romance may be difficult for some actors, but Bridges and Basinger are both extraordinary in their roles. Ted shields himself from his feelings by grasping onto everything around him, and Bridges expertly taps into the charismatic and impish character. However, I saw “a little too much” of Bridges in his nude scenes.

Basinger is amazingly beautiful, but even more so in this role, and like a delicate piece of fine china with a hairline crack, her beauty serves the part even more. Marion is full of guilt, anger and a need to be loved in spite of not being able to love again herself. Bassinger makes us see these needs so completely we understand her way of dealing with her grief.

Newcomer Jon Foster does a great job balancing the qualities of an innocent young intern who expects to earn a few bucks for college and instead takes on the problems of manhood.

Elle Fanning is sister to Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam), and it’s hard to believe there are two children from the same family so gifted as young actors. She not only charms the audience, but her fellow actors as well. Basinger said about her, “Elle is needless to say magically gifted. She is the most beautiful definition of a child. I simply fell in love with her.”

Irving is a master at penning soulful and complicated stories that intrigue and entertain at the same time. While there are some plot holes and moments that seem to go astray in The Door in the Floor, watching Basinger and Bridges expose their characters’ flaws and inner torment so powerfully is a pleasure.

(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for strong sexuality, graphic images and language.)

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