Rabbit Hole

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B+

The run-up to awards season is either: A. Exciting, fun and full of nerdly predictions and teeth gnashing. B. Awful, can’t stand it, get it out off my television with a shotgun bad. To me it’s a little of both.

The blue whale of the awards show season is the Oscars. With the lead-up an event in itself — the gossip consisting of who’s promoting themselves, who’s going to get snubbed, who’s going to win. I follow it, probably because I’m a sports guy, and i like to have a rooting interest. I hadn’t heard much about Rabbit Hole until people started whispering about Nicole Kidman’s chances at another nomination. Well, without my vote, she surely has no chance at all, so I felt obligated to watch it.

On to the film. If you’re one of those moviegoers who uses movie-watching as an escape from reality, i.e., your favorite films are summer blockbusters, Pixar animation and Will Ferrell comedies, you should probably stay away from Rabbit Hole. That’s not a slam, you know what you like and it’s probably not this.

But on the other hand, if your not afraid to be sad, angry, frustrated or confused by films, grab a ticket. Based on the Pultizer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole is the sad story of a grieving, chipped-but-not-broken family. Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are parents who have lost their only child 8 months ago in a tragic accident. Each is trying to grieve and move on in their own way.

Rabbit Hole tries hard not to lay blame, or pass judgment on its character’s behavior, it simply observes two parents as they cope with a loss so unfathomably tragic, we as an audience, unless you’ve been there, can’t even form our own opinions of their actions. We just watch, quietly and think about what we’d do. But the truth is, none of us know, we may think we do, but in the end if any of us are so unlucky to be visited by a tragedy like this, we don’t really know how we’ll react. The film uses its characters as conduits to all possible avenues of confrontation: forgiveness, regret, acceptance and anger.

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The screenplay provides an actor’s dream role. Plenty of room to find your own interpretation. Eckhart has been a favorite of mine since I first saw him in the small indie, In Company of Men. Unfortunately, his performance here is only satisfactory. I don’t think he ever finds the heart of his character. In Howie’s transformative scene, the emotion feels forced. He’s at his best when playing off Nicole Kidman, who defines the film with a somber and eloquent performance. Her character is less a roller-coaster of emotion than a private jet silently cutting through the sky, occasionally hitting a massive air pocket of intensity. I can’t forget to also mention the amazing performance from Miles Teller, who plays another important role in the tragedy. His performance in many ways is much more nuanced and deep than Kidman’s. I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of this young talent.

There are several moments that teeter on the precipice of melodrama, but the direction and acting hurdle those inclinations and elevate the film. Another thing, this isn’t a tear-jerker, the true sadness of the event is 8 months in the past. The tone of the film isn’t uplifting either, its sitting somewhere in between. A limbo that follows the hard waves of grief and precedes a reflective acceptance. Rabbit Hole will stick with you after the credits end whether you find it’s a good film or not. The subject matter is too pointed and intimate to leave us apathetic.

tags: aaron eckhart, nicole kidman, rabbit hole

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