13 December 2010

Review: "Rabbit Hole"

Nicole Kidman, like Tilda Swinton, has often undertaken riskier roles, such as her performances in Dogville (2003), Birth (2004) and Margot at the Wedding (2007). Her biggest problem, and my reason for being a less devoted fan, is her string of major disasters, like Bewitched (2005), The Golden Compass (2007) and Nine (2009). Kidman forfeited her role in Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger in order to produce and star in Rabbit Hole. This may have been a wise choice as she and the amazing Dianne Wiest have both garnered critical praise since the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Rabbit Hole is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire which won Cynthia Nixon a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play in 2007. This is one of Nicole Kidman's best performances since Dogville. I am hoping that this is a stepping stone to a rebound in her career, though her next film, Just Go With It, may not have bee the best choice. John Michael Cameron, director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) and Shortbus (2006), may not have been my first choice of director because the material is richly dramatic and emotional, but he allows the David Lindsay-Abaire's screenplay and the performances to speak for themselves. Rabbit Hole, despite its heavy themes, is an emotionally resonant film that is anchored by Nicole Kidman's flawless performance.

Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) find their lives forever altered when their young son Danny is killed by a car. Becca, a former executive at Sotheby's auction house, was a stay at home mother who is struggling to cope with the constant reminders of Danny at home. Without consulting Howie she starts removing all concrete reminds of Danny from the house, which upsets her husband. They tried to go to group therapy but Becca becomes increasingly agitated by the religious fanatics that she refuses to keep going. Howie keeps going to therapy and becomes friendly with Gabby (Sandra Oh) and the two end up getting high in her car before sessions as a means to cope with their grief. Becca, meanwhile, has decided to become better acquainted with Jason (Miles Teller), the teenage boy that killed Danny. Through all this Becca must deal with her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest), who has her own views about losing a son, and her pregnant sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard).

I wish that I had been able to see Rabbit Hole as a theatrical play. It strikes me that the emotion of the story may be even more poignant on state. Becca and Howie are dealing with their grief in such a private and individual manner that it is a wonder that their marriage survived the death of their only child. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart offer such wonderfully understated performances that I sat on edge for most of the film waiting for an eruption of emotion. I would have preferred if the film would have given a richer emotional context to Becca's friendship with Jason and Howie's with Gabby, and perhaps this is the fault of adapting a stage play. Dianne Wiest as we all know is one of my favourite actresses and I quite loved her chemistry with Nicole Kidman. The light and tender moments the two women shared were just as important as the deep emotional bond they have as mother and daughter but also as mothers who have lost their sons. Rabbit Hole allows its characters to be human so that the contrast of heartbreak and comfort experienced by Becca and Howie seems natural. While Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest are both exceptional, it is Nicole Kidman's multidimensional performance of a grief-stricken mother that drives this film.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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