Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Miles Teller, Dianne Weist.
Nicole Kidman has long been considered box office poison, given the disappointing performance of some of her recent film choices (Bewitched, The Golden Compass, The Invasion, etc). Her new film Rabbit Hole is unlikely to change this perception, as it is a down beat film that is difficult to market. However, it will restore her reputation as a credible dramatic actress.
Rabbit Hole is based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer and Tony Award winning drama about a married couple trying to cope with the recent death of their four-year-old son. The film deals with the aftermath of this tragedy and how it has still affected the couple months later.
Kidman plays Becca, the emotionally paralysed wife who impatiently looks for answers and someone to blame for the tragedy. Aaron Eckhart plays her husband Howie, who is struggling to cope. They flail around hopelessly for much of the film, tearing strips off each other. They deal with their grief in different ways – Becca wants to move away from the painful memories, while every night Howie watches video footage of his son at play. They attend a group therapy session for mourners, but Becca finds the whole process frustrating. “If God had wanted another angel, why didn’t he just create one?” she says acerbically. However, catharsis comes from a most unexpected quarter, when Becca strikes up a friendship with Jason (Miles Teller), the teenaged driver who killed her son.
Rabbit Hole is a profound, moving drama and something of a departure for director John Cameron Mitchell, better known for the offbeat Hedwig And The Angry Inch, and the sexually explicit Shortbus. Mitchell handles the material with surprising compassion and sympathy, and avoids letting it become mawkish or manipulative. In adapting the play for the screen Mitchell and Lindsay-Abaire don’t disguise its theatrical origins, nor do they try to open the material up too much. This is a beautifully sparse drama without unnecessary embellishments. Mitchell makes the interior of Becca’s house claustrophobic and gloomy, which complements the oppressive and melancholy mood of the film.
The film itself is full of painful and awkward silences that accentuate the couple’s emotional pain and it seems real. And while this may seem a bit depressing, Mitchell finds some rich veins of humour and humanity in the scenario.
In an emotionally draining and challenging role as the brittle Becca, Kidman delivers a performance that is raw, honest and compassionate, and easily the best thing she has done in years. Eckhart doesn’t often reveal his more emotional, vulnerable side on screen, and he delivers a restrained, sympathetic performance as a man who desperately trying to hold on in the face of overwhelming grief.
Dianne Weist offers solid support and brings some warmth to her performance as Becca’s mother, who knows what it is like to lose a child. She has been coping with her own grief for several years, and is able to offer some sage advice. And Teller’s sympathetic and nuanced performance suggests he has a big future.
Grief and loss are fertile territory for filmmakers, and Rabbit Hole offers an involving, richly dramatic and emotionally satisfying treatment of these familiar and universal themes