Eccentric children's writer Ted Cole (Bridges) and his wife Marion (Basinger) have been ripped apart by the deaths of their two sons. When aspiring author Eddie O'Hare (Foster) is employed as Ted's assistant one summer, he becomes their reluctant go-between.
John irving's busy, quirky novels have proven tough to adapt for the big screen as there's often too much going on. Tod Williams deals with this by tackling only the first third of Irving's A Widow For One Year, his The Door In The Floor combining a coming-of-age tale with a cryptic study of how grief can dismantle a family.
In a sense, it's a detective story, with Eddie the wide-eyed outsider trying to figure out what happened to the Coles' sons, and why exactly Ted has hired him. Even the casting seems designed to wrongfoot. Jeff Bridges has the most likeable face in Hollywood: big, friendly and rumpled like an unmade bed. The sight of him shambling around in a tatty dressing gown, flashing his wry grin, recalls The Big LebowskiÆs The Dude, but Ted is a much trickier customer. Meanwhile, Basinger, whose beauty gets deeper and sadder with age, makes Marion glassy with grief and impossible to read.
Ruthlessly plotted and aching with emotional alienation, it's intelligent and intriguing, but frostier than The Ice Storm. Even the moments of sexual farce (Eddie is the unluckiest masturbator since Jim in American Pie) are more melancholy than funny. If you're in the mood, though, this better-than-the-book adaptation casts quite a spell.
If you're in the mood, though, this better-than-the-book adaptation casts quite a spell.
Reviewed by Dorian Lynskey