Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rabbit Hole (2010)


From Gone with the Wind to Children of Men, the strain placed on a relationship due to the loss of a child resonates deep within the emotional core of Hollywood. The conflicting desires to escape and engulf oneself in the past becomes an overwhelming experience. Yet, amidst it all we must find our own way of moving on. There's no guarantee that two people will find what they need in the same way, even if they are a loving, married couple.

Becca (Nicole Kidman) has found herself unsure of her place in life. A former executive turned stay at home mom, Becca feels disjoint from the world following the loss of her son. At group therapy she undermines the sentimentality of the rest of her group. She judges those who still have their children, and fail to lavish them with love. Lashing out in violent rages, she reprimands all those who she sees as belittling her. Then afterward she hates herself for it. Nothing seems to work for her. No consolation exists in those around her, despite their best efforts.

Her husband, Howie (Aaron Eckhart), has a much different approach to grief. Howie approaches the events of grief, such as group therapy, as things that just have to be done. Outwardly, and in his everyday life, he hides any emotion that would represent his inner turmoil. Yet in quiet moments while his wife is upstairs readying for bed, he pulls out his phone and watches a video recording he took of their son. This video is the one consolation he truly allows himself to indulge in. As far as he ever dares display, that video is his son.

Their relationship now is one of two wandering souls connected only by familiarity and what remains of their love for each other. Many moments of silence mixed in with violent arguments make up the majority of their life. They are desperate for some change to make things easier for them, but nothing seems to come along. Their friends and family all look upon them with sympathy, trying desperately to help while not bringing up old wounds. Too mixed degrees of success, the couple manage to move forward... but just how far they can go together is the question at hand.

A real wrench is thrown into the machine when Becca befriends Jason (Miles Teller), the teenage driver of the car who hit and killed their son, after following him to the library one afternoon. Through Jason, Becca must finally deal with the 'blame' card, and how it can make or destroy a life.

Perhaps the most redeeming aspect of Rabbit Hole is that while it teases with the idea of it, the movie steers clear of many modern relationship woe cliches. The film is about finding a way to get through a tragic event, and maintaining your relationship at the same time. It's about the many ways we try and find solace in life. Those that seek out god, family, friends, or just turn inside themselves. The ways each of them work, and how they can catapult you to success or failure. And through it all, director John Cameron Mitchell and writer David Lindsay-Abaire find the right balance between pain and dark humor.

Through their relationships with others, Becca and Howie find some sort of understanding as to what their life will now entail. Rabbit Hole is not a film about resolution, but it does a fine job of bringing an element of reality to the affair. Dianne West steps in with an especially memorable performance as Nat, Becca's mother who experienced a similar struggle when Becca's brother died some years back. Other cast members, notably Sandra Oh and Miles Teller, do fine jobs with their roles but aren't asked to do much.

No matter how you slice it, this is Becca and Howie's tale, and Kidman and Eckhart are up for the task. The two handle the flow from silent introspective to aggressive outbursts flawlessly. Their performances are the kind that in a weaker year would garner a lot more nomination talk than they have. Despite some lulling moments, it's that sentiment of honesty and reality that drives the Rabbit Hole message home. Appreciating it is as easy as understanding it.

Often times the difference between a good movie and a great movie is that a good movie requires you to be in the right mood to watch it, while a great movie puts you in the mood it needs you to be in. In that respect Rabbit Hole is a very good movie with moments of greatness.

3 better thoughts:

Walter L. Hollmann said...

A movie that only grows in value. I saw it weeks ago and every day I think back on some aspect of it -- especially the score.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

THANK YOU Univarn for this review and THANK YOU Walter for mentioning the score which I love. I think after weeks of talking about this I may just be talked out, but yeah I think it's sort of brilliant.

Mike Lippert said...

A good review, as always, but I think you may be short shanging this movie a tad. As I hinted in my review, I don't think this movie is quite as simple as just a matter of coping with death and raises big, profound, metaphysical questions, but does so so subtly that to disregard them is not to dislike the movie. I think that's what makes this movie great: that it starts with a simple concept and slowly reveals that it is about something bigger and more profound.

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