I don’t have kids, so I can only imagine what it would feel like to suddenly lose one. Rabbit Hole, a pretty-looking piece of Oscar bait starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, means to show us such pain, but doesn’t wholly succeed.
Kidman and Eckhart play a couple mourning the loss of their 4-year-old son, who only months earlier ran into the street and was hit by a car. During their struggle they lash out at each other, friends and family, and find new ways of coping, she by talking to the remorseful teen (Miles Teller) who was driving the car, he by befriending a pot-smoking member (Sandra Oh) of their support group.
The film was directed by John Cameron Mitchell, best known for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and he proves very skilled with the technical details. He lights the film beautifully, his framing of shots is exquisitely precise and he utilizes a gentle score to provide the right note of sadness. As a result it feels more like a big-studio effort than an indie flick that took less than a month to make.
What it lacks is the necessary emotional intensity. Which is frustrating, because the script by David Lindsay-Abaire, who based it on his play, gets the words and situations right, like the awkward moments when people ask Eckhart if he has any kids or accuse Kidman of not being a mother. Or when Kidman sums up the bleak state of their lives by saying, “Things aren’t nice anymore.”
The problem, I think, is that Mitchell’s direction is a little too low-key, and so the scenes of Kidman and Eckhart letting go emotionally, be it arguing or crying, never feel as cathartic as they should. It doesn’t help that Kidman’s performance, which was touted as being this really raw thing, feels so controlled. She’s never less than good here, but I don’t think she dug down nearly deep enough in trying to convey her character’s pain.
Thankfully, the always-reliable Dianne Wiest is around to pick up the emotional slack. As Kidman’s mother, a woman still stung by the years-ago death of Kidman’s drug-addicted brother, she effortlessly communicates weary anguish, without sentimentalizing it. Her moments with Kidman are the film’s best, none more so than when she explains to Kidman that grief never really goes away, but it does change, and even becomes bearable, “like a brick in your pocket.” – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 4/19/11