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Adapting John Irving novels will always be difficult because they are filled with so many little details that are impossible to convey on screen. This film chooses to adapt only one third of A Widow for One Year, which I regrettably have not read, but manages to pack in a lot of plot developments and interesting character detail within 111 minutes. Seeing Jeff Bridges play a role that initially appears to be comedic but quickly becomes serious was gratifying and Kim Basinger, although she's not great here, always makes me hope she will be as good as she was in Fool for Love (1985). This isn't a great film but it is very interesting and I wish that more films like this were made today so it's nice to see a film that focuses on a dysfunctional family and an odd group of characters without judgment.
Eddie O'Hare, Jon Foster, who dreams of being a writer is hired as the assistant to alcoholic womanizer Ted Cole, Jeff Bridges, over the summer. He lives with them in their beachfront house on Long Island and begins a sexual relationship with Ted's depressed wife, Marion, Kim Basinger, while Ted is having an affair with his neighbor Evelyn, Mimi Rogers, who he also draws nude. The reason for Marion and Ted's depression is slowly drawn out of them as the film goes on and one of the stories that Ted wrote "The Door in the Floor" is used as an extended metaphor.
Bridges' performance in the lead role is astonishing as he uses all of the charm present in his early performances but employs his ability to turn from fancy free to serious in a few seconds with devastating effect. He works hard to find the sympathetic elements of his character who his in many ways very detestable but he manages to create the sense of a man who has lost everything and deserves pity. Foster is equally good as the shy but libidinous young man who comes to understand just how flawed his idol is. The awkwardness of his performance is accurate to a real teenager and the uncomfortable approach he has to questioning those around him belies a still coming of age boy. Bridges and Foster make a wonderful pair and their work towards the end of the film is subtle but dramatically exciting.
Basinger is disappointingly flat in her role and brings none of the chutzpah that she brought to The Natural (1984) or 9 ï¿ 1/2 1/2 Weeks (1986). The young actress who plays her daughter, modern day superstar Elle Fanning, completely upstages her conveying more in a few expressions than Basinger does with whole monologues. Rogers is fun as the mistress and the shot of a piece of paper, a drawing of her vagina, flying on to Ted's windshield is one of the most raucously funny scenes I have ever seen. All of the actors, excluding Basinger, manage to draw something out of their characters whether it is hidden grief or burgeoning sexual desire and that forms a very fascinating ensemble of characters to watch in a film that doesn't have all that much going on.
The handling of tone is not always perfect but when the film does become serious in the third act they completely commit. Bridges telling of the story of his sons' death is tragic and the darkness in his face, when he appears so effervescent up until that point, convinces you completely of his inescapable grief. The director does a decent job the whole time at pacing the film well and dropping in some funny moments every now and then but when the film ramps and the storm occurs he really comes into his own as his touches as a director, close shots held for long periods of time and quick cuts to exterior shots, are never more clear.
This is worthy or recommendation but you have to come in being a fan of Irving's work or the film won't really connect with you. You also have to be patient because the film doesn't contain much action until the third act which is just crazy but it is a rewarding experience when you make it that far.
Bridges shines in this quirky well acted bittersweet but very entertaining drama.
Good actors overcome a bad script
As I often do, I started watching this film, then I stopped to do something else... watching films this way may not be ideal, especially if it is the first time you are watching them but it does have an incredible advantage and that is to put some distance. Distance helps me to be more objective and make build my thoughts more coherently.
When I first stopped this film I was about 15 minutes in. The film was going really well and I thought about this which led to think about other films that initially were going very well and got nowhere but somehow I had the feeling, this was not going to be one of those cases. Thankfully, it was not.
There is a writer who not constantly, not like a teacher or a mentor would, speaks about writing to a younger writer. It is interesting to me how this is tackled because to talk about structure, story and when those are good the script writer needs to have the knowledge and the confidence to parallel match this in his own script. Of course the masterfully great stitching is finished when Jeff Bridges' character points out the need for specific details which connects with the title of the film being presented throughout the feature and finalising on a door in the floor of his squash court.
I say I will have to watch again this film because I am sure there are several elements I did not get to see and even though I know the story now and it is not a remarkably visual film or funny it has the attribute of depth, like the strange connection between Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) and Evelyn Vaughn (Mimi Rogers), any connections with the writer that uses that name as pseudonym? What is her job? What is her mental status, is she clinically insane? I quite liked how nuts she was and how a character that was probably a mere extra, was given a lot more importance.
Pulling from that thread, I noticed how many other little characters had a strong sense of reality, the woman at the photos shop, the nanny, the man at the bookstore and the gardener. It is all very saddle but certainly it unfolds a world very naturally.
Now I have to wonder what is Tod Williams up to and why is he directing so few films.
To be honest I only watched this movie to see Mimi Rogers naked.
Es ist eigentlich Schade, was man aus dieser Geschichte gemacht hat! Es gäbe so viel tiefgründiges zu erzählen, zwischen den menschlichen Akteuren. Aber alles wird oberflächlich runtergespult. Die Darsteller sind sehr gut ausgewählt, nur wird man leider nicht warm, von dem Spiel, der vereinzelten Rollen. Der Film ist durchschnittlich und man hätte mehr Spannung und Tiefgründiges einbauen sollen!
Stilted and pretentious, but I kept watching. Really good acting overall; great job by Jeff Bridges.
Good acting has overcome the bad writing of John Irving. John Irving commits a felony with ever thing he writes. Elle Fanning is great in this. She was 4 and has so many lines in a key role.
A good old drama with a great cast & some intense moments.
Tod Williams is an okay Director. John Irving is a brilliant writer. Tod Williams does not get John Irving....at all. The surface of Irving is here but the texture and nuance is gone. Crude masturbation scenes do not represent the sexual longing and confusion of a teenage boy that Irving was driving at. If you're a John Irving fan it might be worth seeing this as part of the repertoire. For me, there's too much tragedy and not enough life in this rendition. The beauty of Irving is finding both.