Rabbit Hole | John Cameron Mitchell, 2010
It seems that every year we get a movie about young parents either losing their children or being torn apart by the concept of family, and while some of them are great, the story is getting kind of old. But then along comes Nicole Kidman, who saw the stage version of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole” (he also wrote the movie), which won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony for Cynthia Nixon, and decided to produce a film version for her to star in. Once she did, she got indie wunderkind John Cameron Mitchell to direct it despite the fact that he had only dwelled on extremely sexual films up to that point. She and the director then filled the rest of the cast with talented people, and the result is one of the best movies of the year.
In Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman plays Becca and Aaron Eckhart plays Howie. They are a relatively young couple who seem to live a comfortable life, but they don’t. Eight months ago, they lost their two-year-old child in a freak accident. Since then they have been going to group therapy, although she hates it. The film, from then on explores the relationship between Becca and her mom (Diane Wiest), who is still grieving after her 30-year-old son died 11 years ago, how she copes with her sister’s pregnancy, the possibility that her marriage might end, and what happens once she meets Jason (Miles Teller), the young man who accidentally killed her son’s death.
So you see, nothing ground breaking going on story-wise. However, the way the author takes on it is different from others. First off, it’s not a dreary drama that makes you want to slice your veins or anything. There is lightness about it. There are some funny moments and some hopeful ones, and they balance with the more dramatic ones. Also, this movie could have gone into melodrama territory, but it didn’t. The author only wrote two big fights, and it felt natural, like it is the kind of thing that would happen in these situations. And his dialogue is rich and engaging.
John Cameron Mitchell’s direction also helps wonderfully in making this refreshing script come to life. He can be quite stylish, even with his low budgets, and while he does make sure that this looks like part of his filmography, he holds back a bit and uses enough style so that the story and the performances shine even more. His decision to have DP Frank G. DeMarco shoot the movie with the RED ONE instead of 16mm film, which would have been the choice given the budget, helps with the lightness of the film by giving it a filmic, but not gritty or video look to it. In fact, some of the images are quite breathtaking. The editing is also quite great as it makes 90 minutes fly by. And Anton Sanko’s score is lovely, but it doesn’t interfere with what is going on and only plays in appropriate places.
Then there are the performances, the one thing that most people will want to watch it for. Nicole Kidman’s performance is further proof of the fact that she is the greatest actress of her generation. The role of Becca calls for a cold outer appearance, but who can also look like any moment she can just burst with emotion, and she does it perfectly. When she finally does, you can’t help but feel for her, to want to go and comfort her or something. Her accent does slip every once in a while, but you don’t really notice it because you are too engrossed with what is happening on the screen. I must also say that she hasn’t looked this beautiful and relaxed since Moulin Rouge! Aaron Eckhart gives his best performance so far. He plays the opposite of Kidman, as he can’t move on, and you can see, even when he has truly embraced the fact that life goes on. Diane Wiest is delightful as what could be called comedy relief, but only because her character is quite quirky, but she definitely has some problems deep inside. Miles Teller is given his first major role here, and he knocks it out of the park. At firt he looks like a regular teenager, but when he meets Becca, you can see how the accident changed his life and blames himself although it wasn’t really his fault. And Sandra Oh reminded me that she can be quite good when she is not in crap medical dramas.
Rabbit Hole is a refreshing and affecting look into what happens when parents lose a child. The production could not be better, the performances are top-notch, as is the writing. Overall, it is a very powerful and fantastic movie that should not be missed.