Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Running Time: 90 minutes
Ladies and Gentlemen: Book your tickets NOW for the Valentines Day showings of Rabbit Hole. Adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer prize winning play, the film focuses on middle-class suburbanoid couple Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) some 8 months after losing their son Danny in a tragic circumstances. Initially dealing with their grief with coffee and doughnuts at couples counseling, they both end up pursuing different channels to reconcile this loss, with Becca distancing herself from her immediate family and striking up a curious relationship with the young man who accidentally killed Danny, and Howie connecting with a fellow bereaved parent Gabby, played by an actor I’ve tried very hard to forget, Sandra Oh. Does this sound like the perfect date flick for Monday 14th February or what?
Surprisingly, considering the subject matter, Rabbit Hole is not a particularly upsetting movie. Although on the surface dealing with similar themes to Iñárritu’s 21 Grams, it’s engrossing and moving in a different way; focusing more on Kidman’s disconnected state and the almost relentless passive aggression she shows those around her. She’s not interested in comfort or intimacy with anyone until she connects with Jason (Miles Teller). Ironically, she shows more kindness and empathy to the young man who tragically changed her life forever, than any of the family and friends who try, in vain, to support her. Naturalistic and beautifully nuanced, their afternoon park bench conversations with are, by far, the film’s strongest moments. Although receiving much praise for her performance, you may find Kidman’s bee-stung top lip far more affecting, for the wrong reasons. Not wishing to trivialise the subject matter in any way, but when the film’s lifeblood is the connection with a protective and emotionally raw character, a face ravaged by ill-judged trips to Hollywood’s finest Botox specialists is distracting and reductive. Teller – WITHOUT a gob that looks like he sucked on a hot curling tongs – is far more impressive and should see him marked out as a real one-to-watch in future. As the other half of the grieving couple, Eckhart is a little less convincing. Although a fine actor, he’s never commanded much versatility or range in his performances. For all intents and purposes, it could just as easily be The Dark Night’s Harvey Dent or Thank You For Smoking’s Nick Naylor who settled down and moved to the suburbs, and one can’t help but think of the depth that Mad Men’s John Slattery (Howie in the stage production) could have brought to the role.
Radical Faerie (look it up) Director John Cameron Mitchell, whilst creating a film that doesn’t feel immediately like a play adaptation, adopts an unobtrusive style. He also resists the urge to clutter the film with superfluous details to simply ‘cinematise’ the work. There’s a stillness from the locations, barely populated parks and streets, that reflect Becca’s isolation beautifully and the director can be commended for that. However, after the first hour, consistency becomes a problem. Connections set-up between all our main characters become almost stilted – an interesting subplot with Becca’s troubled sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) is almost completely abandoned – and only the dynamic between Becca and her mother (the perma-squinting Dianne Wiest) develops with real curiosity come the final third. And Sandra Oh is in it.