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by Jordan Hiller


Door in the Floor (2004)

Take the sexual trauma associated with Jason Biggs’ Jim Levinstein and combine the poignant coming of age sexual eagerness of Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock and we can welcome Jon Foster as Eddie O’Hare into the annuls of awkward teens getting impossibly lucky on screen. However, The Door in the Floor is by no means a “teen sex comedy” in the tradition of American Pie, Meatballs, and Losin’ It. John Irving (The Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp) may have a winsome style of writing, but his novels are steeped in heavy-handed human frailty and resounding psychological conflicts. The Door in the Floor, based on Irving’s 1998 novel A Widow for a Year is no different.

We sail into the wide gray spaces of an overcast Hamptons where a writer of “complex” children’s books (Jeff Bridges), his delicately stunning wife (Kim Basinger) and their precious blue eyed daughter (Elle Fanning, Dakota’s sister) live together yet worlds apart - the silences cutting - their relationships as ravaged as the bodies of their two sons after the car accident that killed them both a few years earlier. We have discovered cold misery calmly chilling itself, nestled in the untouchable luxuries of the rich and famous. If not for the film being directed with some slight distractions but courageously by Tod Williams, we would still be treated to textured performances by Bridges and Basinger (meeting for the first time since 1987’s Nadine).

I bring up the ballyhoo comedy Nadine not just to show off my skillz, but because it allows us to appreciate how far these two have come as actors and appreciate what life experience can add to the face and expressive abilities of individuals. In the eyes of veterans Basinger and Bridges, we recognize actual wells of trauma and caverns of pathos, simply from the experiences they have endured over the years. With age comes wisdom and suffering (and with Basinger, some of her personal issues are well-publicized) and the good actors infect their performances with those elements. Jeff Bridges is as usual mesmerizing. He gets under the skin of this grieving father, aloof husband, sexual predator, and domineering, arrogant, pretentious artist, providing an award worthy outing. Basinger, who somehow won an Oscar while I was away in Israel, will never be a great actress, yet she remains hypnotically watchable and ethereal, and her turn here as the older broken woman drifting into the sexual wastelands of benumbed midlife marks a significant high point in her more or less embarrassing cinematic career.

The other big story here, and the reason The Door in the Floor manages to truly startle, is that nobody actor Jon Foster carries the weight of the lead role. His Eddie is a student/summer intern for Bridges’ writer and an idealistic fan of his strange fiction for kids. He, an outsider to the family in crisis, gets thrown into the melee, and must mature quickly to survive with his sanity in tact. The ingenuity of casting this fresh faced unknown alongside heavyweights Bridges and Basinger (specifically when it comes to his “experimenting” with Kim) flawlessly promotes the belief in his awe and wonder as he loses faith in an idol and is drawn in by a fallen angel.

The film, while telling a story dealing with tragedy and its after affects, essentially boils down to a study in humiliation. The humiliation of a boy with raging hormones and the embarrassment of a couple when a marriage fails. Ego and the insecurity and pride it carries runs a thread through all relevant portions of Williams touching movie. It is hard not to be crushed by the brutal (but aptly realistic) reaction Foster must swallow after he confesses his (or what he considers to be) love for the woman that made him a man. That particular sharp observation represents numerous similar sweet and painful moments sprinkled throughout this quiet, yet audacious, film about the seemingly perfect marriage and the new trajectory a cruel, confusing fate has sent it.

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Reviews by Jordan Hiller

Door in the Floor

Before Sunset

Spider-Man 2

White Chicks

The Day After Tomorrow

Super Size Me


Never Die Alone

Eternal Sunshine 

The Passion  


Hiding and Seeking:  Faith and Tolerance after the 


The Ten Best Films of 1993 

The Statement

Big Fish

Hebrew Hammer

Forget Baghdad

The Missing

Master and Commander

Kill Bill

Trembling Before G-d


Veronica Guerin

Pieces of April


Bubba Ho-tep

Casa De Los Babys


American Splendor


The Holy Land

Return from India

The Shape of Things

City of Ghosts

Anger Management


The Guys

Assassination Tango

Gaudi Afternoon


Nowhere in Africa

Foreign Sister



L’chayim, Comrade Stalin
part 1

part 2


Divine Intervention

The Pianist

Best films of 2002 1992

8 mile

Punch Drunk Love


Gaza Strip

The Kid Stays in the Picture


Minority Report



Spring Movie Preview 2002

Panic Room

The Oscar Preview 2002

Royal Tenenbaums

Harry Potter

The Man who Wasn't There

From Hell

Training Day

Hearts in Atlantis

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

the others

Planet of the apes

Jurassic Park III


Shrek & Atlantis

The Mummy Returns

Enemy At the Gates


Exit Wounds

15 Minutes

You Can Count on Me

The Mexican

Down to Earth

Meet the Parents

Golda's Balcony HERE

Tribeca FIlm Festival 2004

Photo Gallery HERE

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Coffee and Cigarettes

Super Size Me


The United States of Leland


Tribeca FIlm Festival 2003

Daily Coverage: HERE

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A Breach in the Wall

Every Child is Born a Poet: The Life and Work of Piri Thomas

Paper Chasers

Resisting Paradise

MC5: A True Testimonial

Sweet Sixteen

The Shape of Things

Yossi and Jagger

Persona Non Grata

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