Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rabbit Hole

BEST OF 2010
It is always hard to give a film like Rabbit Hole a "best of" label because it causes one to feel guilty for giving a film with such heavy material such high praise. But, from time to time, the darkest films are beautifully made and leave pieces of itself embedded along the skin. In the case of Rabbit Hole, all of this is true. The film is an experience in extreme sadness. A study of grief not soon enough after the event. A view of a family in shambles before, during, and after the type of event that destroys so many.

I am not one to sing the praises of family. The bonds of family, the importance of family, or the raising of a family. But, I do understand the loss of a child may be one of the hardest, most painful experiences for anyone- no matter the age of the child or the parent. In the case of Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play parents Becca and Howie. Eight months prior to the start of this film they lost their first and only son, Danny. The film, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, is smart to give us a few months away from the death. We are not meant to experience the immediate impact of loss, but the gradual understanding of how loss is a constant ghost.

There is rarely a moment in the film that isn't overwhelming. Most of the scenes are filled with sadness, bitterness, anguish, or regret. Such a heavy film is not always easy to pull off because the audience can begin to feel claustrophobic or overwhelmed. Rabbit Hole paces itself with the use of the incredible performances. Kidman could not have been better as the role of the grieving mother. Every shiver, tear, and breath is timed to perfection. I am always happy to see Eckhart return to more serious, dramatic roles that show off his ability to carry off difficult situations. And, the always lovely Dianne Wiest has, as usual, out done herself. She has a handful of brief scenes as the mother of Kidman's Becca, but with each scene Wiest takes control without showing off.

Rabbit Hole's director, John Cameron Mitchell, does a surprisingly mature job with the film. Mitchell is the creator, and later director, of the play/film Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The musical is one of my favorites, but the film falls a little flat and comes off as a little too glitzy for my taste. Mitchell's second film as director, Shortbus, is a sentimental and boring attempt at mixing serious drama with porn. I feel Mitchell was very unsuccessful with both these films. To see him handle Rabbit Hole so well shows he knows exactly what he is doing. There is never an off moment between the camera, the actor, and the audience.

Rabbit Hole should have you on the edge of tears throughout most of the film. And, from time to time, you'll find yourself in tears. Rabbit Hole is a film I may not view many times in my life, as it is too heartbreaking. But, I will remember the experience for quite some time.


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