Their life is brittle and strained, as Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) go through the paces of work and a sexless marriage in the aftermath of the death of their 4 year old son in a suburban car accident. It's not until Becca makes tentative contact with the high-schooler, Jason (Miles Teller) who was driving the car that she is able to start reconciling herself to a life after a death.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like a rabbit hole that burrows into the ground, this emotionally dense film about grief, coping with loss and finding a way to get life back on track, takes us into heart wrenching territory. Based on a play written and adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire, the story is multi-layered and as the surface layers are peeled away, we are left with raw emotion, making much of it tough going. This is the power of the film and director John Cameron Mitchell, remembered for his extraordinary Hedwig and the Angry Inch extracts vulnerable performances from his superb cast and twists our emotions meanwhile.
Not long after we meet Nicole Kidman's Becca in her neat, tidy garden and home with her handsome husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart), we realise that the neatness and routine is stifling uncontrollable anguish. Even the dog has been relegated to her mother Nat's place (Diane Wiest) and Becca is prickly to everyone, including Howie, who goes to great lengths to try to inject some joy and romance into their lives. It has been 8 months since the tragic accident when Becca and Howie lost their four year old son, and nothing has seemed to help. As Becca looks for the comfort she needs, the fork in the road points her in two directions: religion or science. There's also the compulsive relationship with Jason (Miles Teller), a teenage boy who draws comic books about parallel universes and who is an unwilling participant in the scenario.
There are some great scenes, filled with drama and longing. And some surprises, like the hilarious scene in which Howie smokes pot in the car before one of their weekly relationship sessions with one of the participants (Sandra Oh is outstanding).
This is a good role for Kidman, who does brittle well. We feel Becca's isolation and raw hurt; everything seems to conspire against her. Even her wayward sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) seems to have it all, with a baby on the way. All the performances are excellent but for me, it is Diane Wiest who shines most brightly, as the mother who tells her daughter from experience that grief - even after the worst has receded - is like a brick in your pocket and never goes away.
This is a film for a mature audience willing to be confronted emotionally. These are tough topics and issues and some may be reluctant to allow their emotions to be shredded through the wringer.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Filmmakers seem to be drawn irresistibly to stories about couples coping - or not - after the death of a child. It's almost a genre of its own. The reasons lie perhaps in the opportunity such dour stories offer writers and directors to dig into the depths of the human heart at its most vulnerable. That's also why actors love to work on such films, vehicles for exploring their most intimate and powerful emotions. The genre is less attractive to average audiences for obvious reasons, but lovers of good filmmaking can find things of lasting value in such films.
Rabbit Hole is in some ways a borderline case; while the performances are powerful and moving, the way the story is told restricts the context of the central characters. We know them only as the victims of fate's cruelty - a residue perhaps of the film's origins as a theatre play. Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) walk and talk nothing but their pain. The question all of the films about the death of a child ask is: how can such grief be borne and survived. It's a fair question, and there are several answers, each person finding their own way through - or not.
Eckhart is terrific as the father who is desperate to get past the roadblock of grief in their lives, but doesn't know how. Becca won't even let him touch her. She, ironically, finds the answer for herself, which releases them both. This is the film's ultimate message of hope and the tiny ray of light that shines into their - and thus our - lives. Kidman immerses herself in Becca and her pain is almost tangible.
Miles Teller is superb in his acting debut as the young Jason, delivering a complex, vulnerable yet dignified character, allowing us inside through his eyes. It's a star-making performance and the film is worth watching just to discover him.
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NICOLE KIDMAN VIDEO INTERVIEW
RABBIT HOLE (M)
CAST: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Stephen Mailer
PRODUCER: Nicole Kidman, Gigi Pritzker, Per Saari, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech
DIRECTOR: John Cameron Mitchell
SCRIPT: David Lindsay-Abaire (play by Lindsay-Abaire)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frank G. DeMarco
EDITOR: Joe Klotz
MUSIC: Anton Sanko
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kalina Ivanov
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 17, 2011