FILM RATING: 4.5 stars
(Upgraded from 3.5 to 4.5 stars on September 29, 2011)
One of the more serious dramatic movies I’ve seen from 2010 is Rabbit Hole (2010), starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, and Sandra Oh. It’s had a very limited release in theaters, where I was lucky to see it, but you’ll definitely want to check it out on Blu-ray or DVD when it comes out if you can’t still find it in a theater near you. Like the tagline on it’s poster, the only way out of the dark emotional content of Rabbit Hole is through watching it. Rabbit Hole is ultimately a movie about grieving: the process it takes to get through it, how it changes us (or doesn’t change us), and what we ultimately come to terms with. If you’re having second thoughts about watching this movie, I encourage you to put those thoughts aside and watch the film anyway. I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.
What makes this film so good is the incredible writing, acting, and visual storytelling led by director John Cameron Mitchell. While Mitchell seemed an unusual choice for directing this story, I was very impressed with how he handled it. I haven’t seen his first two movies, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) and Shortbus (2006), which both have reputations for being VERY unique, controversial, and “out there” movies. Rabbit Hole is certainly not in those categories. It’s a much more mainstream look at a story of two parents losing their young son to a tragic accidental death and how they deal with it.
I think what surprised me the most with Rabbit Hole was how easily I got into the story of married couple Becca and Howie, played perfectly by Kidman and Eckhart. Their on screen marriage is very believable and well written. It’s interesting that Becca and Howie deal with grieving over their young son’s death opposite to the stereotypical gender-specific way that we would expect. Becca deals with the death more like a guy would, and Howie more like a woman. I think this twist helped make the story more interesting since stories similar to this one have been told before on TV and in the movies. With our changing gender roles in our current 21st century culture, men and women don’t fit all nice and tidy into the boxes they used to. And Rabbit Hole isn’t afraid to look at that along with death at the same time.
I didn’t really know much about the story going into see the film, and that was probably to my benefit as a viewer. It’s not the story itself that makes Rabbit Hole better than most adult-oriented dramatic feature films, but all the elements that make up the movie. The cinematography is great from director of photography Frank G. DeMarco, along with excellent production design by Kalina Ivanov. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, the script and the play on which this film is based, are realistic, current, and fresh in dialogue and emotional subtext. Director Mitchell brought what I assume is a bit of his taste to the film, but it didn’t call attention to itself, which was good for this story.
With a glut of superhero/action movies, comic book tales, and animated feature films filling our theaters every week, it’s nice to have something else to see in the theater. While Rabbit Hole is definitely an arthouse niche film that will only appeal to a select audience who appreciates subtle classic filmmaking, I for one am glad that I chose to see this film in the theater on the big screen. It was worth the price of admission and there was no upcharge for 3D glasses!