Review: Rabbit Hole
PLOT: After losing their child in a freak accident, middle-class couple Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) struggle to put their lives back together, and save their marriage.
REVIEW: For better or worse, RABBIT HOLE is sure to be known as the film that gave Nicole Kidman her face back. What I mean by that is, going back at least as far as THE INTERPRETER, Kidman's gorgeous face has been more or less immobile, with her looking either like she get a facelift, or just a hell of a lot of botox. Luckily, it seems to have only been the latter, as she looks more or less back to her old self here.
Acting-wise, RABBIT HOLE is really a comeback of sorts for Kidman, who's been in a steady stream of crap going back five years or so. Blame the presumed lack of good roles for actresses over forty if you will, but I can't understand how the woman who won an Oscar for THE HOURS, and was so brilliant in films like THE OTHERS and MOULIN ROUGE, could deliver a few downright awful performances in films like THE INVASION, and AUSTRALIA. I'm sure part of the blame lies in the fact that they had bad scripts, or uneven direction, but as bad as they were, Kidman has to shoulder at least part of the blame, with her wither overacting wildly (NINE, AUSTRALIA), or looking like she can't wait to cash a check (THE INVASION, THE GOLDEN COMPASS).
Luckily, there's no sleepwalking going on in RABBIT HOLE. Going the indie route seems to have really agreed with Kidman, and she's better here than she's been in a long, long time. Working with the formerly avant-garde John Cameron Mitchell (HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH, SHORTBUS), Kidman pulls out a positively searing portrait of grief, which luckily never crosses the line into hysteria. RABBIT HOLE only picks up months after her child has passed, so most of the grief here is expressed subtly. There's no hysterics, but rather, we see the way any semblance of joy seems to have just been sucked out of her character although she's too damn stubborn to allow anyone to share her grief. Instead she's tries to hide it behind a superficially cheerful exterior, but when we're alone with her, which is a good chunk of the film, we really see how she feels.
Probably the most moving scenes in the film are the ones opposite young Miles Teller, who plays the teenager than accidentally ran down her son while on a (sober) afternoon drive. It's made clear that Miles is not at fault, but like Becca, he's also been torn apart by the incident, and the way Becca starts to find herself by easing his burden of guilt is quite moving indeed.
Meanwhile, Aaron Eckhart as the similarly grief-stricken Howie, delivers a quality performance of his own, although one can't help but feel this is really Kidman's show. Nevertheless, he's quite good, although one scene stuck me as false, which is when he's shown smoking-up with Sandra Oh before a group therapy session, and later having a major case of the giggles. Sorry Hollywood, but I've yet to meet a pot-smoker that's ever gotten high enough to break into uncontrollable laughter at a place where someone's talking about their dead child. Trust me, I've known more than my share (of pot-heads that is), and even the worst wake n' bakes that I've known have been able to keep some semblance of control. This whole sequence is like something out of a bad Cheech n' Chong film, and it sticks out in RABBIT HOLE like a sore thumb.
Other than that, RABBIT HOLE is a pretty solid indie, although it's probably too small scale to measure much of an impact in cinemas. How it fares with the academy is another question, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Kidman, or perhaps co-star Dianne Wiest (in a gem of a role as Kidman's slightly loopy, but sympathetic mother) got a nomination a little later this month. For me, RABBIT HOLE isn't quite a top-tier film, but it's still a very worthwhile drama and well worth seeing.