Saturday, 21 May 2011

Rabbit Hole

A young boy runs out into the street after his dog and is struck and killed by a car. He was the only child of Howie (Aaron Eckhart) and Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Rabbit Hole begins eight months later. The situation is not original and neither are the marital struggles resulting from the boy’s death. Rabbit Hole, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, survives this lack of originality by giving us wonderful performances by Kidman and Eckhart (as well as Dianne Wiest as Nat, Becca’s mother), an intelligent screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire (based on his Pulitzer-prize-winning play), great cinematography and enough surprises, including the surprising presence of humour, to keep it from being predictable.

Anyone who has seen Mitchell’s previous films (Shortbus, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) will be amazed at how mainstream Rabbit Hole feels (the above-mentioned films are about as far from mainstream as you can get). Rabbit Hole almost qualifies as a family film. Ironically, it is precisely the understated mainstream reactions and decisions which come as a surprise, because one constantly expects all hell to break loose (especially if one has made the questionable decision to watch von Trier’s Antichrist, which deals with a very similar theme). Taking this non-sensationalist road probably would not work for a Hollywood film, but it works for Rabbit Hole thanks in large part to the quality of the writing and acting. It’s amazing (especially for Mitchell) how real one can make a film even without sex and foul language. While I am not offended by either one, I do hope other directors are taking note.

Perhaps the most original contribution Rabbit Hole makes to an old story is the role of Jason (newcomer Miles Teller), the teenage boy who was driving the car. Becca befriends Jason, who writes graphic novels, and Jason becomes a central plot device revealing how both Becca and Howie are dealing with their grief. That they are dealing with their grief differently goes without saying, but Rabbit Hole does an amazing job of not taking sides even as it focuses on Becca’s struggles. Becca’s family also contributes vital pieces to the plot and there are some marvellous scenes involving Nat.

One of those scenes is a telephone argument between Becca and Nat about God. Nat also lost a son and it was her belief in God which saw her through her grieving process. Nat wants Becca to see how such a belief might help her as well, but Becca cannot see how a loving God could allow such tragedies to occur. In the end, Becca must find some other belief which will allow her to set aside her hatred of God.

I won’t say how Rabbit Hole ends, but I will say that I found Rabbit Hole to be a surprisingly honest and wise film and I am eager to hear what Walter, with more experience and training in psychology, has to say about it (Walter, you need to put this on your list for Wild Goose, if it’s not there already). A very solid ***+. My mug is up.

1 comment:

  1. I saw a trailer for this movie and it interested me, however, I dislike watching movies that I know will make me cry (spectacular movies a la Life is Beautiful being an exception). Therefore, I was hesitant to see it. I was afraid it would be another mediocre movie that would play on my emotions, making me miserable and depressed. From what you've written it seems Rabbit Hole may be a step above cheap tear-jerker tricks. I'm glad you reviewed, or I might never have even given it a chance to wow me.