Movie Review of “Rabbit Hole” by Peter Eramo
January 20, 2011 10 Comments
They say that losing a child is the greatest grief a parent can endure. For whatever reason, there is the myth that the majority of married couples who experience the death of a child end up in divorce. However, a 2006 study showed that only 16% of these couples go down that unfortunate path and of that 16%, less than half felt that the child’s death actually had an impact on the marriage terminating. So there goes that theory!
Hollywood likes to over-dramatize this sensitive occurrence from time to time – perhaps never done more brilliantly than Robert Redford’s 1980 Ordinary People. Oddly enough, that film ends with a more-than-likely divorce. Lawrence Kasdan’s touching The Accidental Tourist and Todd Field’s outstanding In the Bedroom are other examples of terrific films that center on the loss of a young child.
Now Rabbit Hole attempts to tackle this very difficult subject matter which doesn’t scream “Box-Office Bucks” for people looking to escape reality and have a good time. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell, the film is based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s award-winning 2005 play (he also, thankfully, wrote the screen adaptation) and produced by Nicole Kidman’s own production company. What Rabbit Hole gives us is an intriguing and, at times, fascinating exploration of a once happily married couple now struggling to survive in the wake of their young son’s death eight months prior.
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play Becca and Howie Corbett – parents who are grieving in very different ways. Howie gets to go to work all day for a little escape, while Becca stays in the home, tormented by traces of her lost son that linger in every nook. Howie goes out and plays squash, he embraces group therapy sessions, while still secretly watching home videos of his son in his private time. In other words, Howie seems to be dealing with his tragedy about as well as anyone can be. He mourns the death of his son, but still manages to exist and go about his business from day-to-day. Eckhart handles the tricky role quite well. He is a rock…the “strong” one, but you can tell that he may break at any moment, which is a credit to Eckart’s work here.
Becca handles her loss quite differently. She doesn’t want to socialize at all. She hates group therapy and simply wants to be left alone. She can’t seem to move on sexually with her loving husband and she lashes out at her mother (Dianne Wiest) at inopportune moments. She desperately needs help, but will not allow herself to receive any. That is, until she accidentally spots young Jason (Miles Teller) on his school bus on the way home. Jason is a senior in high school and is the young man who was behind the wheel in the ill-fated accident that killed Becca’s only child. Becca is drawn to him, though she is not sure why. They meet in the park and talk. There is a connection between the two. The exchanges between Kidman and Teller, who has not been in a feature-film until this, are riveting. Teller is a true find and a sensation here. His gestures, reactions, mannerisms are wildly authentic and I am sure we will be seeing more of the young actor in the years to come. Kidman has played the “cold”/detached character many times before and she does fine here. Becca though is in deep mourning, despite her behavior, and I never felt that Kidman showed this in clear fashion – nor does she garner as much sympathy from us as she perhaps should.
Dianne Wiest is wonderful as Nat, which should come as a shock to no one. She is much stronger and much smarter than she looks and does her best to reach out to her daughter. She too has experienced the loss of a child – and though one would think this bond would bring the two women closer together – it sadly takes on the opposite effect. Sandra Oh is also a stand-out here as Gaby, another grieving parent who the Corbett’s meet at group therapy. When Becca decides to drop therapy altogether, Howie insists on going and his friendship with Gaby is the film’s only other interesting subplot.
Rabbit Hole is a tight film and tackles its rough material very delicately. It has a realistic look and feel to it and Lindsay-Abaire’s characters are intriguing to watch. Going “down the rabbit hole” is a metaphor for adventure into the unknown in Lewis Carroll’s masterful work. Here, it seems that once Becca spots Jason by happenstance, she in for her own personal journey of rediscovery. If the subject matter doesn’t turn you off, I’d certainly recommend seeing it.