The Door in the Floor

Future author Ruth Cole (Elle Fanning, "Daddy Day Care") is marked by one beachside summer when her parents marriage fell apart. The tragedy of the loss of two teenage boys drives Marion Cole (Kim Basinger, "8 Mile) into the arms of her husband's handpicked teenage assistant Eddie (Jon Foster, TV's "Life as We Know It") while Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges, "Seabiscuit") observes from his own adulterous sidelines. Four year old Ruth's memories will forever mix the emotional upheaval of that time with her dad's children's book "The Door in the Floor."

Laura's Review: B+

Director Tod Williams ("The Adventures of Sebastian Cole") made an unusual choice in adapting the first third of a book - John Irving's "A Widow for One Year" - and it turns out to be an inspired one. Williams' adaptation is unflaggingly faithful while also illuminating the marvelous parallels and symbols of words and pictures that Irving uses to connect his characters. This is a wonderfully acted adult drama. Whereas the book's point of view was Ruth's (the remainder of the book tells her story), the film's viewpoint is from masculine eyes. Ted shows his wife a picture of a college student he is considering for summer help. Eddie arrives by ferry and is surprised to be met at the dock by Marion rather than Ted, then surprised again when Marion drops him off and leaves. The Coles are in a trial separation. Eddie finds himself retyping Ted's new book (inspired by Elle's middle of the night observation that 'it was a sound like someone trying not to make a sound'), which never progresses further than one page. He's also a driver for Ted, who has lost his license presumably for drunk driving. Ted, who proclaims himself 'an entertainer of children who likes to draw,' spends most of his time having affairs with the local women he persuades to pose in the nude. Eddie is quietly appalled by Ted's behavior, seeing as how he has become obsessed with Marion. Marion is embarrassed one day when she walks in on Eddie masturbating to her bra and panties, but Eddie's desire also awakens something in her for the first time since she lost her sons. Marion seduces Eddie, in her own odd way reconnecting with the years Tim and Ted never grew up to see. Ted tells Eddie he's grateful for his 'friendship' with Marion, as she's finally showing signs of life, but when Ruth walks in on her mother and Eddie having sex (poor Eddie's sex life is constantly interrupted by the Cole women), Ted draws the line. In addition to Ted's drawings, both his nudes (one of which makes a hilariously unexpected appearance) and his illustrations for his own books, the Cole summer home's hallways are haunted by black and white photographs of Tom and Tim. Ruth ritually tells the stories behind each one like a pint-sized historian and becomes agitated if one is moved (one picture shows the elder brother posed just like Eddie's college snap). These stories about children suggest the author in the making, while her dad's children's books have fear of women at their core (an adoring college student suggests to Ted that the door in the floor is a vagina, a subject Ted happens to draw, but not for inclusion in his books). American treasure Jeff Bridges gives one of his finest performances as Ted Cole, the artist as bohemian, revelling in booze and women, who loves his wife but is confused by the female species. Bridges is both funny and sad and gives the comedy and drama equal and skillful measure. Basinger is faced with playing a character of more mysterious motivation, and while she produces a sympathetic Marion, she doesn't quite get across Marion's inner emotions. Newcomer Foster gives a breakthrough performance as the boy who becomes a man while being used by both parties of a marital meltdown. Eddie lives through a real developmental arc, from shy adolescent towards an aggressively responsible maturity and Foster conveys the change gradually and naturally. Also good are Mimi Rogers ("Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd") as Ted's latest subject Evelyn, pitiful as a woman humiliated, funny as a woman wrecking vengeance, and Donna Murphy ("Spider-Man 2") as a frame shop owner who reacts to Eddie's entire soap opera summer via complaint forms. Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota, is perfectly believable without undue precocity. Terry Stacey's ("American Splendor") cinematography and Thérèse DePrez's ("American Splendor") production design both have the light, airy quality of a cool summer breeze.

Robin's Review: B

Documentary filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren have an extraordinarily interesting (and outspoken) subject in John Wojtowicz, a man who has no problem in telling his life story. And what a story it is and what a cast of real characters it has! The film spans 40 years of John’s life, from his days fighting in Vietnam to his marriage to Carmen, the robbery, arrest and incarceration and release and his death in 2006. The filmmakers use current and recent interviews with John, his mother, Terry (you can tell that the feisty lady is John’s mother instantly), Carmen and other who knew him. There is copious archival footage, particularly from the robbery – kudos to Sidney Lumet and company for creating an accurate account of that dog day – including a number of interviews over the years before and after the robbery with Ernest Aron, the reason why John did the robbery. Ernie eventually had the operation and became Elizabeth Debbie Eden after she ended her relationship with Wojtowicz. Others, like Robert Brasset, the head cop on the scene that afternoon, provide their individual insight into a remarkably complex character John Wojtowicz. “The Dog” is the story behind the familiar story of “Dog Day Afternoon” and it answers any and all questions about the man and his motivations.