Door in the Floor, The

Ted Cole (Bridges, simply one of the best actors around) is a blocked children’s book author coasting off his fame and enjoying his lavish, artistic lifestyle. His wife, Marion (Kim Basinger), is emotionally paralyzed from a tragic accident which killed their two sons years ago, and can’t get herself together to be a mother to their young daughter (Elle Fanning, sister to Dakota). When the Coles take in a teenage writing student named Eddie (Jon Foster, “Terminator 3”) for the summer so that he can learn the ways of an author, the young man soon falls into lust with Marion, and the two embark on a sexual relationship that opens up the wounded mother emotionally and romantically.

As the title suggests, Irving’s story has been changed radically for the film. What remains of Irving’s touches are his affection for the Northeastern American lifestyle; full of privilege and dysfunction, and the ways this life can veer from beautiful to envious to poisonous all in a single instant. Writer/director Tod Williams’s last film, “The Adventures of Sebastian Cole,” explored another family coming apart, so his vision is welcomed with open arms by Irving’s material. Williams is great with the details of Ted’s pretentious artistic whims, along with his addiction to the adulation he receives from his fans. Williams paints a gripping portrait of loss and emotional denial, and “Floor” is a steady cinematic affair, blessed with an ace cast and a commitment to keep Irving’s drama unpredictable and riveting.

Also decidedly Irvingesque is the sexual intimacy between the characters, portrayed with a clear eye by Williams. Marion and Eddie do not start their relationship through a hackneyed, “Mrs. Robinson” type of scenario, but refreshingly through Marion accidentally catching Eddie masturbating with her underwear. Williams also gets lots of mileage out of Ted’s unabashed nudity as he stomps around his property, even in front of complete strangers. Not too many movies are willing to show characters in honest sexual situations, and “Door” is at its best when showcasing the eroticism, whether it is awkward or beautiful, as it is and not stylizing the hell out of it, or losing backbone when it becomes a little strange, such as when Eddie and Marion’s relationship grows.

As “Door” slowly unfolds, Williams does trip a little trying to maintain Irving’s lyrical eccentricities. What starts as a fairly dark drama eventually tries to smuggle in some comedy (funny, but not always), and the characters begin to show that some critical backstory has been cleaved away, especially when Eddie’s adoration of Ted’s talents begins to melt away quickly as the summer progresses. He goes from shy fanboy to bitter rival in no time, throwing off the film’s steady rhythm. It isn’t enough to derail the movie completely, but it unravels the complex story that Irving has carefully built, and that’s a little disappointing.

Rating: B