Review: Rabbit Hole


Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Written by:David Lindsay-Abaire
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito, Tammy Blanchard
Released: February 17, 2011
Grade: A-

I’ll never forget the last time I saw a film from director John Cameron Mitchell.  It was November 2006 and I was seated in the back row on the right hand side.  The venue was the old Dendy Cinema on George Street in the Brisbane CBD.  There were about 50 people in the cinema.  Some were on their own but the majority had come as a couple.

Why can I remember this so vividly?  Well, that’s because Shortbus was the most sexually explicit film that I have ever seen in a theatre.  It didn’t just push the envelope.  It tore it to shreds.  I realise it wasn’t for everyone (not quite suitable for my sweet grandmother) but I thought it was a creative and original idea.  Mitchell had effectively made porno that had insightful commentary and a decent script.  Who’d have thought it possible?

We’ve been waiting four years Mitchell’s next film and finally it has arrived.  Rabbit Hole centres on a married couple who have suffered the worst of all nightmares.  Their 4-year-old son was killed as a result of a tragic accident.  He chased the family dog out on the street and was struck by a passing car.

When we pick up the story, several months have passed.  Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) are now trapped in a whirlpool of grief.  They don’t know how to stop it.  They can’t find a way to move on with their lives.

The film’s force comes from its performances.  Nicole Kidman (The Hours) portrays Becca as a tough, stubborn individual.  She’s bottled up her emotions and she’s not letting anyone in.  It’s just the way she’s chosen to deal with the loss.  Her husband and her mother (Weist) try to get her to open up but this only creates more tension.  Kidman richly deserves the Academy Award nomination she has received for this tricky, multifaceted role.

Also impressive is the talented Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking).  You get a close sense of the difficult situation in which he finds himself.  He’s trying to find a path forward but his wife keeps pulling him back.  They disagree about going to therapy.  They disagree about having another child.  They disagree about selling the house.  Their relationship is on shaky ground.

The film is heavy-going at times but there is light at the end of the “rabbit hole”.  The tagline on the film’s poster articulates it best - “the only way out is through”.  There’s no going back and so they’re just going to have to keep battling to find the solace they seek.  A high-school teenager (Teller) and a weed smoking mother (Oh) will each have a part to play before this story is over.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play from David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole is an affecting yet surprisingly uplifting tale about the ways in which we cope with sorrow and heartache.  There are a few slow points in the story but on the whole, John Cameron Mitchell has done an amazing job capturing the heart of these delicate characters.