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RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
• Audio Commentary with the Director, Writer, and Director of Photography
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer
Kids dying sucks. Let’s watch that for 90 minutes.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Miles Teller, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenny, Sandra Oh
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Less than a year ago, Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) lost their only child to a tragic accident. Now they’re trying to go to group therapy to help them deal with their grief, although they have different ideas on how to go about that. Meanwhile, talk of a baby gets pushed to the forefront when Becca’s kid sister, Izzy (Blanchard), gets knocked up by her boyfriend (Esposito), all of which revolves around their widowed mother, Nat (Wiest), who has a loss of her own that may provide her with the insight that Becca needs to get through it all.
“Look! Look at my forehead! WRINKLES! I told you! I told you I still had wrinkles!”
Some powerful, surprising moments floating in a sea of maudlin mediocrity, Rabbit Hole traverses familiar territory while not bringing much new to the table. Not remotely terrible, it’s still a wonder that it landed on many critics’ top ten lists for 2010 because while it definitely has the Oscar-bait material that populates many an awards season film, it’s just been done so much better so many times before.
Despite her obvious talent – on display, especially, in two fantastic scenes that clearly were the reasons she deservedly got the Oscar nomination – Kidman’s face just cannot be ignored. She’s up there with Mickey Rourke in terms of, whenever they’re on screen, you’re constantly ripped out of the narrative and you’re reminded that, yes, this is in fact a movie star actress with serious plastic surgery, not Becca, a thirtysomething woman who recently lost her only son to a tragic accident. Rourke gets a pass in The Wrestler simply because it fits his rough, grizzled character; Kidman doesn’t have that out in Rabbit Hole. Her Becca is an extremely well-off former urban professional who lives in a dream house with her college sweetheart, Howie, who drives a late-model Mercedes-Benz in New York. Actually, given that information, it’s perhaps completely warranted that she’d have a puffy, fake-looking face. But we’re not watching The Real Housewives of Long Island and it’s distracting that she looks like she’s 25 years old again until she talks, smiles, or elicits any emotion whatsoever. Another element that kept pulling me out of the film was the music. Not sure why this specific, repeating theme was chosen but its upbeat sappiness and totally generic quality combined to irritate me whenever it got loud enough to dominate the soundtrack. It’s barely a step above MIDI elevator tunes.
Jack Nicholson reprises his original Joker character from time to time, but mixes it up to keep it interesting, this time doing the ole Jacqueline Napier drag style.
Unlike the music, Kidman manages to rise above the distractions to command the two best beats in the movie – one, where Becca snaps at a grieving couple in their therapy group who go on and on about how their daughter died because God needed another angel, and another when she sets her mom, Nat, straight, who keeps comparing Becca’s loss to her own. And so do the other actors, especially Dianne Wiest who steals the the show whenever she’s on screen. It’s interesting to see these two mothers, both dealing with the losses of their children, and how they handle things differently. One, a cold shell of a woman who’s fighting to get back to feeling something other than the numb pain of her son’s void; the other, perhaps the future, the best-case-scenario of handling that sort of emotional trauma. Wiest and Kidman play off each other well, selling the mother-daughter relationship from the get-go. You can tell that Becca’s verbal daggers cut Nat deep; although, like a mother who has dealt with her share of pain over the years, she doesn’t let it stay an open wound for long. Wiest captures all of that nuance brilliantly and easily could’ve earned an Oscar nod.
The same couldn’t be said for Eckhart. Maybe it’s just me, but no matter how much I like the idea of Aaron Eckart and I like the roles he chooses, for the most part, there’s always a distance between me and his character that prevents me from truly believing that he’s lost himself in the role. I can tell that he’s talented, but when I watch him, I see the talent more than I see the character himself. Like he’s the best student in the top acting class — the craft is fantastic as are many of his technical choices, but it’s too methodical to feel organic and natural. The only role I felt he didn’t fall victim to this was in Erin Brockovich. Which is too bad because he’s likeable and enjoyable enough, just not deep enough in the character to let me just absorb the story of Rabbit Hole, instead constantly reminding me that I’m watching an actor playing a role. It’s distracting even when the acting is technically solid.
“I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS!”
Hand it to director John Cameron Mitchell for directing a flawed yet solid all-around cast. Miles Teller was excellent as the teenaged Jason who became intimately linked with Howie and Becca forever, offering a bright-eyed high-schooler with the world ahead of him and a past that haunts but doesn’t plague him. Sandra Oh does her best Sandra Oh which doesn’t exactly provide much in the way of range but she’s fine as a friend from the therapy group and Giancarlo Esposito is sadly underused as Beeca’s sister’s boyfriend, showing just how talented he is to portray such a different role from that of his in Breaking Bad. Mitchell doesn’t do anything flashy with the almost always locked-off camera, but he does capture the best of those performances. And when it comes to character dramas like this, that’s crucial.
In those handful of instances where I lost myself in the story, Rabbit Hole worked the way you want it to when you’re watching a movie: to let you forget that you’re watching something that’s just made up. Had there been more of these throughout the film, it could’ve elevated itself from relatively forgettable to a relevant entry in the canon of grieving-parent movies.
“Dude, I love you, too, but you’re totally confusing me for your dog, I’m the neighbor’s hound.”
What you’d expect from a quality, widescreen 1.78:1 DVD release and comes with a loaded commentary track with Mitchell, Lindsay-Abaire, and DP Frank G. DeMarco waxing reminiscent about the making of the film. Through in some deleted scenes for the die-hard fans and it’s a decent package for those looking to add this one to their home collection.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
It’s subtle, you can hardly tell, but she’s actually smiling the widest grin ever. If only her muscle would cooperate.