Sunday, July 25, 2004

Website Update: Practice

My latest ‘In the Frame’ column from Mystery*File is now available. Extended reviews of books by Rupert Holmes and Scott Phillips, a look at Humphrey Bogart on DVD, and more. Read it here.

Miscellaneous: Air Travel

Delta showed a rerun of THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR on my flight back from New York. I guess they really are in dire financial straits.

A pictogram in the airplane bathroom showed a hand dropping a variety of objects into a toilet, with a large X going through the collection. The items included a cup, a razor blade, a diaper and a sanitary napkin. Does this mean that I can’t throw any of these things into the toilet? Or that I just can’t throw them in all at once?

Movie: The Door In The Floor (2004)

Writer/director Tod Williams came up with an ingenious solution for adapting John Irving’s sprawling novel A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR: he only filmed with the opening section. Instead of unfolding over the course of 37 years, the story takes place in a single summer. The book’s protagonist, Ruth Cole, is only a child here, conceived in the aftermath of a horrible accident that killed her brothers. The film focuses on her parents and their attempts to come to terms with their grief. Ted (Jeff Bridges), a revered children’s book author, disappears further into his bohemian artist persona, drinking to excess and sketching nudes of local society women. Marion (Kim Basinger) is on the verge of simply disappearing, until her husband’s young assistant, well-played by Jon Foster, arrives for the season.

Williams does a marvelous job of capturing the woozy feeling of summer in the Hamptons. But the tone of the material defeats him. Other than an extended section about two-thirds of the way through the film when Williams intercuts between the characters beautifully, the mood is excessively somber. He avoids the pathos other adaptors of Irving have fallen prey to, but he sidesteps the humor as well.

Bridges gives a galvanic performance, investing what could have been a clichéd character with tremendous life, but the movie undercuts his effort by being more judgmental about Ted’s behavior than Marion’s. That recessive role would be a difficult one for any actress other than Julianne Moore to play. Despite a game effort, Basinger isn’t up to the task. Credit to Williams for an arresting closing shot that almost elevates the entire film.

From the I-wouldn’t-have-noticed-this-had-I-liked-the-movie department: this section of Irving’s book is set in 1958, but Williams has updated it to the present. Which makes it hard to accept that the young assistant wouldn’t know the nature of the accident that killed the Coles’ sons. A writer as famous as Ted Cole would have websites devoted to his work, and some of them would dwell on the tragedy excessively. I’m just saying.

To my knowledge, this marks the second time that the great New York theater actor Larry Pine has played a surrogate Charlie Rose. The first was in THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS. Seems like nice gig.