Rabbit Hole reviews

Mister Tee
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:19 pm

Hollywood Reporter, a bit less positive -- though strong for Kidman.

Rabbit Hole -- Film Review
By Kirk Honeycutt, September 14, 2010 02:27 ET

"Rabbit Hole"Bottom Line: Deep-dish drama, not without its rewards, but a little too self-conscious for its own good.

TORONTO -- John Cameron Mitchell takes a break from shepherding his sexually charged writing to the screen to direct David Lindsay-Abaire's adaptation of his Pulitzer-winning play, "Rabbit Hole," an intense, intimate story of a couple reeling from the loss of their young son.

This extreme change of pace allows Mitchell to burrow deeply into a more grounded kind of drama than is his forte. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart deliver performances that are like raw wounds, where nothing either one can say or do will blot out relentless memories and pain.

"Rabbit Hole" will win its share of accolades, but will it win audiences? The small screen better accommodates this kind of concentrated tragedy; in a cinema, the story becomes like those support-group sessions the couple attends: The film does achieve moments of catharsis, but it can be heavy going.

The story begins eight months after a traffic accident kills Becca (Kidman) and Howie's (Eckhart) boy. The more the couple plays "normal," the more the effort fails. Becca tries to eradicate all signs of her son, while Howie reaches out to family and friends.

The group sessions barely help. Too much talk of God for Becca, and though he won't admit it, wallowing in grief isn't doing Howie any good, either.

The story pulls in other characters -- Becca's mother (Dianne Wiest), who also lost a son, and a sister (Tammy Blanchard), whose pregnancy seems like a rebuke to Becca.

Finally, Becca reaches out and to the most surprising person. She happens to see and then makes contact with the high school student (Miles Teller) whose car struck her son. The two discover they share a common grief over the accident. The youth is developing a comic book that deals with parallel universes, of other places where a sad person might be happy and a little boy might not lose his life.

Meanwhile, Howie has his own secret sharer, a woman (Sandra Oh) from group, who has become something of a long-term griever. You realize this couple is gradually coming apart by creating separate lives.

Lindsay-Abaire knows his way around such grief, what things feel like and how best intentions go very wrong. His writing carefully pinpoints the moment where bottled-up rage will explode or the smallest incident can trigger a complete loss of control.

However, "Rabbit Hole" traps its audience inside this prison of guilt and recrimination. The drama has its own relentlessness. Every scene is about the couple's tragedy. Lines of dialogue inevitably have double meanings. Not even a dog gets walked without this being about the lost child.

In this way, the writing is too self-aware. The film cries out for moments that are not about the couple's search for re-engagement. Can't a man simply walk a dog?

Kidman grabs the central focus of the story as the more distraught of the two. The performance is riveting because she essentially plays the entire film at two levels, the surface everyday life and then what is turning over and over again in her mind.

Eckhart's outgoing husband, who isn't afraid to admit to his pain, nicely balances the tightly wound wife. He's open to whatever works -- but nothing does. So frustration compounds his anguish.

Wiest's mother is one that never loses patience with her daughter because she of all people understands. Teller gives a steady, somber performance as a young man still in a state of shock, whose whole life has gone off-kilter in a single moment.

Mitchell's crew does solid work in rendering an almost-too-perfect bedroom community outside New York. Then again, this is all part of the film's self-awareness: No matter how safe and comfy your surroundings, the film insists, everything in an instant can disappear down a rabbit hole.

Mister Tee
Posts: 6667
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Sep 14, 2010 12:00 pm

Variety. The film is sans distributor right now, but, if this review is representative, it's hard to believe someone won't snap it up to go for acting nominations.

Rabbit Hole


Grief may be the topic under examination, but humor -- incisive, observant and warm -- is the tool with which it's dissected in "Rabbit Hole," a refreshingly positive-minded take on cinema's ultimate downer: overcoming the death of a child. Adroitly expanded from the legit hit by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (its original, Pulitzer-winning author) and director John Cameron Mitchell, "Rabbit Hole" fittingly offers a parallel-universe variation on what Broadway auds saw, with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart delivering expert, understated performances as the pic's central couple. A savvy distrib should have no trouble steering this quality drama through a healthy kudo season release.
Eight months have passed since the accidental death of the Corbetts' 4-year-old son, Danny, and the New York couple, Howie (Eckhart) and Becca (Kidman), still feel their lives dominated by the loss. Even the pic's opening gesture, a metaphorical sign of regrowth that finds Becca laboring in her garden, is set back when a well-meaning neighbor tramples one of her freshly planted seedlings -- no matter how hard she tries, the healing is hard. Each has a different way of coping: Howie holds on to all that reminds him of Danny, while Becca wants to sell the house and move on.

This is familiar territory, movingly explored countless times before, though "Rabbit Hole" is refreshingly light on the loss itself. With the exception of one unnecessary, agonizing flashback late in the film, everything takes place in the healing space of the present. But instead of moving on as they should, Howie and Becca seem to be shutting down certain parts of themselves (they haven't had sex since the accident, for example, and Danny's dog has been sent into exile with Becca's mother, played by Dianne Wiest). Just as the birth of a child can strengthen certain unstable relationships, a death threatens to permanently come between even the best-matched couple.

With the larger canvas of the screen at his disposal, Lindsay-Abaire deepens several key relationships. An offhand mention of the God-freaks in group therapy becomes a full-blown subplot, as Becca rejects the collective sharing sessions, where participants appear to be competing for some sort of saddest-story prize. (Empathy, as whenever her mother evokes the death of a junkie uncle, inevitably sets Becca on edge.) While Howie continues going to therapy alone, bonding with "professional wallower" Gaby (Sandra Oh, in an effective role created for the film), Becca reaches out to a teenage boy (Miles Teller) whose facial scars seem to explain what the character doesn't at first.

While Lindsay-Abaire endeavors to open up the action, director Mitchell uses the screen to make the material more intimate, privileging auds with closeups vital to our understanding of the characters. At first, "Rabbit Hole" may seem a radical departure from his more scandalous earlier work (gender-bending rock opera "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and explicit sex drama "Shortbus"); where those films felt transgressive, "Rabbit Hole" is polite, the production itself as neatly manicured as the Corbetts' Pottery Barn-perfect lives. On closer inspection, what all three projects share is the helmer's insistence on raw, unsimulated emotion.

In Kidman's case, it's nice to see the actress' lately immovable forehead participating in her performance, with subtle, almost imperceptible fluctuations in her carefully guarded facade allowing us to follow as Becca tumbles down the rabbit hole of her own emotions. Eckhart gets a couple of big shouting scenes, but the actor manages to convey just as much in Howie's quietly injured moments. A new scene, in which Howie awkwardly attempts to show prospective homebuyers Danny's room, perfectly balances melancholy and humor, while seemingly mundane details -- struggling to use an iPhone, checking on a cake in the backseat -- ground the characters in reality.

"It's a sad play. Don't make it any sadder than it needs to be," Lindsay-Abaire advised potential theater directors in the author's note to his play. Mitchell, whose own career began onstage, respects the writer's wishes, and with the exception of the aforementioned flashback, he shrewdly keeps the mood tipped toward the positive. Anton Sanko's Arvo Part-esque score, all introspective pianos and strings, encourages us to feel without forcing a reaction, while fleeting progression shots of a comicbook in progress enrich the payoff of the play's self-defining scene.

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