Adapted by writer-director Tod Williams from John Irving’s novel A Widow for One Year, Door on the Floor is a smutty, bargain-basement version of In the Bedroom. Acclaimed novelist Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) and his wife Marion (Kim Basinger, under the assumption that her comatose, one-note expression is an approximation of cataclysmic grief) are still suffering the deaths of their teenage sons, both immortalized via a shrine of photographs lining the rooms and upstairs hallway of their New York house. When the shy but nonetheless presumptuous Eddie (Jon Foster) comes to town for the summer in order to work for Ted, he’s instantly smitten by the frigid but apparently available Marion. (Guess he must have caught a double-bill of 8 Mile and 9½ Weeks at the same multiplex that plays King of Mean Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things in the film.)
Marion begins and ends conversations abruptly, so much so that when she mutters to her young stallion, “I think it was wrong of us to both have Ruth,” you may think she’s talking about how they both had their way with her young daughter (an unnerving Elle Fanning—the spitting image of older sister Dakota), who gawks at her dead brothers’ memento moris as if she were trying to unlock the myth of fingerprints represented by the film’s title. Actually, she’s talking about Ted and herself, and by “have” she means “push into the world”—not that it’s entirely too far-fetched to recognize something sleazier beneath every line in the film. For example: “Your penis is funny,” says little Ruth to her father as he gets out of bed in order to help her find “the sound of someone trying not to make a sound.” Is it a mouse, the heavy-handed metaphor of the film’s title, or both they’re after? Stay tuned.
Ted is obviously bohemian (he showers outside, in the nude and in the company of strangers), but so is the misogynistic wind, which nearly blows the clothes off Evelyn (a degraded Mimi Rogers) at the exact same moment Eddie loses Marion’s equally aged coochie. No door in this nasty little film is ever locked (Eddie is caught masturbating, not once but twice, and Ruth catches Eddie fucking her mother doggy-style), but don’t confuse the apparent dearth of locks in the house as a link to the film’s title, a reference to a story written by Ted about a mother who’s too afraid to look into a horrifying hole where countless children have disappeared. And by “hole” I think the filmmakers mean to link the pussy in Khia’s “My Neck, My Back”—Ted’s favorite song (dude, this guy is so hip!), which inexplicably plays unedited on a local radio station—and the place where Maurice Sendak’s wild things are.
Door in the Floor is supposed to chronicle the effects a family tragedy has on a boy’s coming-of-age, but Williams isn’t so much concerned with the actual hurt that cripples the Coles as he is with the sight of a catatonic Basinger riding a teenager’s cock, ostensibly because the vagina is some kind of emancipating device. By the time Marion goes incognito, the smuttiness of the story gives way to a spectacle of squeamish comedy before Williams decides to finally (and fully) unspool the film’s metaphoric title. Door on the Floor‘s cloying literary affectedness is matched only by its deadening literal-mindedness. Williams means to string his audience along to the very last shot, a simple but startling image for sure, but one that hardly illuminates anything besides the rather rudimentary notion that life sucks. And by suck I mean “disappoints,” not “to draw into the mouth by movements of the tongue and lips that create suction”—not that anyone in this film can tell the difference between the two.