Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Rabbit Hole

2010. Dir: John Cameron Mitchell. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller and Sandra Oh. ●●●●○



Grief is a difficult and complex set of emotions, and losing a child must be one of the most horrific episodes in anyone's life, but presenting that issue on screen is rarely managed well. The usual method is to overload the pathos to emotionally devastate the parents. Thankfully Rabbit Hole manages to avoid that pitfall in this slow-burning, deeply felt and under-played look as parental loss.



The film picks up eight months after Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart have lost their only child in a car accident, and follows them as they drift apart, both of them looking for ways to deal with their mixed emotions and neither of them feeling the other can help. Kidman begins a - suspend your disbelief here - faltering friendship with the college student who ran her son over (newcomer Miles Teller) whilst Eckhart finds himself drawn to Sandra Oh, a fellow attendee at the group grief counselling sessions.

The tone of the screenplay allows the charcters to feel and think in ways that seem realistic and nuaced, elements of guilt and mutual anger - partly due to the differences in how they cope - mingle freely with black comedy and tender observations. The group therapy includes some of the most delicious lines, Kidman reishing "Why didn't he just make one" which is even funnier in context than it was in the trailer.

Both of the protagonists give career best performances and I'm surprised Eckhart didn't get much heat in award season his mood swings and need to both goforward and hold onto the past are utterly convincing, Teller also stands out as one to watch in the future (he has a supporting role in the Footloose remake coming up but I expect more will come). I have to say I was less enthused by Dianne Wiest, party because I found it extremely hard to imagine her and Kidman were actually mother and daughter both in the way they interact with each other and the characers outlook on life.

John Cameron Mitchell directs with an unfussy plainness that would surprise fans of his earlier work (Shortbus, Hedwig) and Frank G DeMarco shoots with a drab sensibility that fits the dourness of the script. I would like to suggest to Nicole and Aaron that they get some decorators round, it's going to be difficult to sell their house with the relentless brown of the ground floor, a depressing reminder of the emptyness of their lives.

A couple of glitches and a painfully slow pace aside this is a unique look at the grieving process and certainly worth a look.

3 comments:

Alex in Movieland said...

i've said it before, this was a very zzzzlow movie for me and it just dragged on. I didn't really feel that much sympathy for any of the characters, though there's nothing really bad about the film.

Nicole is quite good, but she's better than the film itself.

TomS said...

Ben, thank you for this review. This is tops on my must-see list.

My life's mission, it seems, is to advocate for the slower pace. I am so appreciative of any film that allows one to actively engage in thought as it unfolds. So rare in cinema today!

Runs Like A Gay said...

Alex,

It is slow, I'll grant you that, but I really felt the mix of pain and resilience the film evokes.

Tom,

It's a shame there aren't more films that take a more gentle pace, but it is a very fine line that requires strong writing to sustain it.