For filmgoers who like their tragic-comedies adult, serious, complex and
literary, this story based on John Irving's novel, "A Widow for One Year," is
your cup of drama. Its heart is set on convincing us that the cure for what
ails you emotionally is sex. And, if it's a little on the forbidden side,
all the better. To pull this off you'll be involved in a marriage crippled
by loss, in which the husband will take the most desperate means a man could
consider to break his wife out of her emotional deep freeze.
When successful but erratic children's book writer Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges)
brings young male writer's assistant Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster) into the
house, it's not really to help him with revisions. Something else is
afoot in Ted's mind than grammatical corrections and it has to do with wife
Marion's (Kim Basinger) estrangement since this once happily married pair
lost their two teenage sons in a tragic car accident.
Ted is a rugged individualist with a freewheeling approach to life, to his
work, and to the general population. He thinks nothing of going around naked,
taking a shower in front of a perfect stranger, or toting his 6-year old
daughter Ruth (Elle Fanning) around the house totally bare-assed, especially
while poring over the family photos lining the walls, this family's obsession.
Revisiting the photos and the moments they each generate in the memory of the
observer seems to substitute for TV. Recalling the past, when everyone was
still alive, seems to be this family's passion and obsession.
For that matter, this household is layered with behavior that, well, shall we
say doesn't conform to what we consider the accepted norms? The dark shadow
of loss has put a spell over the family that seems to have shifted values
like a planetary presence that alters the gravitational field."
A fine cast is brought together to make a wife's philandering and a husband's
puppeteering comprehensible, but it's a creative challenge. It's about
people who have brought themselves into a strange distortion of values and a
distorted understanding of how to resolve a deep disfunction. For the
viewer, it's difficult to interpret it as more than a complex justification
for the healing effects of sex, as though it was a mental bandaid. Well,
maybe it is; who am I to say?
Bridges, who may be among the most underrated actors around, embraces the
enterprise into his copious teddy bear warmth and larger-than-life
personality. Kim Basinger turns in what could be her best work as a woman
locked up behind a wall of restrained silence, unable to make contact through
former lines of communication but who has no problem with new, simpler
And, how does a six year old stay so totally in her role's reality while so
much adult confusion and errors threaten to distort her early understanding
of the world? There is something about natural talent and little Elle
Fanning has it in mesmerizing abundance. Not a false note to the little
This is writer-director Tod William's definition of life in a beach community
of East Hampton, New York during one dangerously lived summer. It's a
mixture of preoccupation with lust, life changing consequences and some
peppery touches of humor. It's complex enough to raise doubts about any
fixed reaction but it creates a time and space that says something
uncomfortable about the human condition and its possibilities.
The title refers to Ted's new children's book, an image fraught with
~~ Jules Brenner