by Ryan Hill
“Rabbit Hole” is the kind of film that’s an actor’s dream. Its two leads, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, are provided with the opportunity to carry heavy emotions in performances that require a lot more than just reacting to computer-generated images in that rarest of movies in theaters today: the adult drama.
Kidman and Eckhart play Becca and Howie, a married couple whose 4-year-old son was recently killed in a car accident. Still very much in the grieving process, they attend support groups while trying to return to some kind of normalcy in their lives. They’re also drifting further and further away from each other.
Becca has internalized her grief and closed herself off from her family, including her increasingly frustrated husband who’s beginning to move on with his life. She’s so closed-off from the world that she even gave away the family dog.
Becca becomes even more distant from Howie when she secretly begins meeting with the teenager who accidentally killed her son in an attempt to help the boy – and herself – come to terms with what’s happened.
“Rabbit Hole” is about as heavy a film as they come. Becca and Howie’s grief is a gaping wound that surrounds everything they do and say, and sometimes that grief explodes onto the surface in shocking ways that are almost too painful to watch. Fortunately, the film mixes in some truly hilarious moments to help keep things from becoming too unbearable.
Director John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) is smart enough to let the film play out organically instead of trying to manipulate the drama, which would have resulted in a ham-fisted, overwrought tear-jerker. Much credit also goes to David Lindsay-Abaire, who adapted the screenplay from his Pulitzer Prize winning play. Most films based on plays tend to feel claustrophobic, but Lindsay-Abaire wisely opens the locations up enough so the film isn’t trapped in one location the entire time.
Both Eckhart and Kidman, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, are absolutely riveting. Eckhart’s cool charm, which can turn into anger at the drop of a hat, was perfect for his role as Two-Face in “The Dark Knight” and here it acts as the perfect foil for Kidman’s internal strife, which manifests externally as coldness and sometimes cruelty.
Dianne Weist adds some gravity as Kidman’s mother, who has also lost a son and unsuccessfully tries to use that connection with her daughter to help comfort her.
“Rabbit Hole” is definitely not a feel-good movie, but its amazing performances and deft writing and direction combine to make a film that, while difficult to watch at times, provides a cathartic experience that lingers long after the film has ended.