Rabbit Hole (USA; 91 min.)


directed by:
John Cameron Mitchell
starring: Nicole Kidman; Aaron Eckhart; Dianne Wiest; Miles Teller; Tammy Blanchard; Sandra Oh
Rabbit Hole
 

Ibad says: "I managed to catch this in theaters the other night before going home for the holidays. I don't have a full length review or anything, but I figured a few scattered thoughts might be of interest to people here. I'd been waiting for this movie practically all year, and it was more or less everything I had hoped it'd be. It's a film like this that separates the real honest-to-god passion projects from everything else; you can tell every single person involved put their whole heart and soul into it with utmost the utmost care. John Cameron Mitchell's directing could be described as minimalist, but at the same time there's something so cinematically fluent to it. You can imagine it playing out on stage as the original Pulitzer/Tony winning material was, but the film didn't feel stagey for a second. All the actors seemed to jump into a rabbit hole or sorts into a dark world of devastating loss and the emotional limbo of despair resulting. Nicole Kidman is the standout, both as emotional and introverted in her acting as she's ever been. But right at her level are Aaron Eckhart, who bravely went to a deeply paternal place of masculine vulnerability that you so rarely see in actors, and Dianne Wiest who made me smile whenever she was on the screen from her sheer warmth and likeness to my own grandmother.

"There were some things that felt slightly off, but I think it's offset by personality of the movie which is achingly relatable. 4 1/2 - 5 cats "

 
Michael says: "Nicole Kidman optioned the script from this play by David Lindsay-Abaire and acting as producer, hired John Cameron Mitchell to direct her in the film version.  RABBIT HOLE is a powerful story about a couple dealing with the loss of a child.  Eight months have gone by and it quickly becomes clear that both parents, Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart), are at different stages of grief but neither is coping very well.  At first it seems that Becca is having more trouble, and when her younger sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) lets slip that she is pregnant, it’s clear she’s a bit rattled.  Their mother (Dianne Wiest) also suffered the loss of a son, and tries to help her daughter with her grief, but she is gently rebuffed.  As the story unfolds, however, Howie begins to come unglued and acts out in various ways, putting the two at odds.  Each is also secretly seeking solace in divergent ways. 

"In an interview Nicole Kidman talked about hiring Mitchell to direct because she felt the screenplay was fairly cerebral and she wanted someone edgy and with some emotion to balance things out, and that proved to be a prudent choice, especially since Kidman tends to be a fairly intellectual actor as well.  Yet whether it was Mitchell’s directorial hand or Kidman’s resonating with the subject matter, the emotions are powerful and well-played by the actors involved.  All the performances are great, especially a supporting role by young Miles Teller.  It’s always a pleasure to see Dianne Wiest, and Sandra Oh is fun as well.  Kidman and Eckhart handle the powerful material expertly, and Mitchell brings it all together beautifully.  4 ½ cats"

 

Jason says: "RABBIT HOLE could easily be the most miserable movie a person could imagine; plenty of movies with the same subject matter have been unrelentingly grim.  The beauty of this one is that it is about coping with loss, rather than just displaying the suffering.  It's not a happy film, but in attempting to get its characters to 'bearable,' it manages to  be excellent.

"Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are a nice young couple who used to be a nice young family.  Their son Dan died in an accident eight months ago, and their instincts for dealing with it are different.  Howie watches a video stored on his phone again and again, while Becca feels oppressed by all the reminders of what she's missing.  They go to a support group with other couples like Gaby (Sandra Oh) and Kevin (Stephen Mailer), but Becca can't stand them.  Her mother (Dianne Wiest) only makes things worse with her good-intentioned attempts to help.  And then Becca's less-responsible sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) announces she's pregnant.

"RABBIT HOLE is a movie of little moments, the best of which allow the people in the audience to empathize, either by calling forth things from their own individual experience or just having the ring of truth, while also guiding them.  For instance, in an early scene, when Gaby and Kevin mention that they've been coming to this group for eight years, there's a little flash of horror between Becca and Howie.  It's despairing and sad but it also gives us a reassuring baseline for the main characters, that they don't want to become defined by their grief; it's an honest reaction that the audience can hold on to when things get darker later.  And, it's a little bit funny.  Not disrespectfully so, but just enough to mix with the fear and depression and say that human emotions are complicated, and the not-obvious ones are going to be present and legitimate.

"Director John Cameron Mitchell and writer David Lindsay-Abaire do an excellent job of piecing them together.  Though the film has its origins in Lindsay-Abaire's stage play, it doesn't feel constricted or overly talky.  Sometimes the characters' words do sound a little mannered, but that's fine here; it keeps what could be taken for otherwise unremarkable events from the outside have a little extra punch to them.  Each scene has purpose and activity, but the direction in which the filmmakers are herding their audience and characters is not always obvious until they arrive.  The comics that one character works on are a great way to break up early, disconnected scenes, but when it's time to shift gears to a more structured second half, Mitchell and editor Joe Klotz handle the transition with aplomb.

"That happens during perhaps the loudest scene of the movie, and while that's a striking moment, the best work the cast does is often in quieter spots.  Nicole Kidman, for instance, is brilliant, because her Becca often seems so reasonable, but there's a viciousness and anger in her that's just ready to explode at all times.  Becca is a fascinating character, far more open to forgiveness than one might initially expect, but there's more than a hint of snob to her as well, and she will get out the really sharp knives for people who really don't deserve them when pushed an inch too far.  It's rare to see a character who is simultaneously so warm and so cold sustain that balance over the entire length of a film like this, and Kidman doesn't ever miss a beat.

"Aaron Eckhart is just as good; Howie is more openly and conventionally demonstrative than Becca is, although doing what one is supposed to do doesn't seem to be helping him much at all.  His explosions are perfect, especially since until they happen, we're not really aware of just how well Eckhart has done in showing us a man both trying to do the right thing and trying to appear to be doing the right thing.  It's a performance that perhaps doesn't dazzle and fascinate like Kidman's; instead of sharp edges, it's got invisible seams that allow for surprising reconfiguration.

"Also fantastic is the supporting cast; a person can run down the list of co-stars before finding someone who turns in a less-than-note-perfect job.  Dianne Wiest, for instance, is excellent; she makes her Nat equal parts embarrassing and understanding, almost inevitably on a course to spar with Becca.  She's able to give the part nuance because she's never really the right or wrong side in an argument, and she makes a long speech a sort of stumbling, inarticulate outpouring of wisdom.  Tammy Blanchard is utterly believable as Izzy; it's easy to see the bond between her and Becca even thoug they clearly don't think the same way at all.  Even smaller parts like Giancarlo Esposito as Izzy's new boyfriend and Jon Tenney as Howie's best friend have the ring of truth.  And Miles Teller is wonderful as a teenager both desperately guilty to still be alive (the way his Jason seems to grasp at straws to give Becca a reason to blame him in one scene is a little heartbreaking) as well as a constant reminder of how Becca and Howie have lost not just who their son was, but who he could have become.

"It's all potentially crushing but never actually so; Mitchell and his cast are able to put a light at the end of the tunnel without making the darkness less real.  It's a rare and perfectly balanced film, not a feel-good movie by any means but not one with any interest in wallowing in misery. 5 cats

"Seen 29 December 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run)"

 
Thom says: "I saw RABBIT HOLE yesterday as well & I did find it reasonably powerful but didn't like it quite as much as others. While I recognize that losing a child is one of the greatest of tragedies since it can never happen to me I feel distanced from how I'd exactly feel. I've lost many more loved ones than I should have and I know that reactions to the tragedy and memories that won't recede are forever with me but I feel you need to find strength in what remains behind. At any rate I loved how Becca connected with Jason, her son's killer. Dual Oscar winner Wiest always sublimely wraps her way into her role and the entire ensemble cast is superb. Personally, I thought the 'the light at the end of the tunnel' was more imagined than real. Kudos to the change-of-direction John Cameron Mitchell going from HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH & SHORT BUS, to this heavily dramatic offering. 4 cats "