Rabbit Hole


Nicole Kidman as Becca
Aaron Eckhart as Howie
Dianne Wiest as Nat
Miles Teller as Jason
Tammy Blanchard as Izzy
Sandra Oh as Gaby
Giancarlo Esposito as Auggie
Jon Tenney as Rick
Stephen Mailer as Kevin
Mike Doyle as Craig
Roberta Wallach as Rhonda
Patricia Kalember as Peg
Ali Marsh as Donna
Yetta Gottesman as Ana
Colin Mitchell as Sam
Deidre Goodwin as Reema
Julie Lauren as Debbie
Rob Campbell as Bob

Directed by John Cameron Mitchell

Eight months after the death of their son, Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart) are trying to keep their marriage together, but as things start to disintegrate, she starts spending time with the teenager (Miles Telller) whose car killed their son and Howie starts hanging with a married woman (Sandra Oh) from their support group.

Dramas can be tough, and the death of a child is not something people necessarily want to think about, but seeing how other people deal with their grief is part of the appeal of “Rabbit Hole,” a film adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own Pulitzer-winning stageplay, a venue that would seem more conducive to the subject matter. Brought to the screen as a star vehicle for Nicole Kidman with indie maven John Cameron Mitchell at the helm, “Rabbit Hole” is just as powerful in its emotions while breaking away from the normal pitfalls that have befallen other screen adaptations of plays.

The relationships unfold slowly as we watch Becca and Howie Corbett, a normal suburban couple, going through the day-to-day of trying to get their lives back together eight months after losing their young son. Even with so much time having passed, it’s not as easy as one might think, and the duo are still doing whatever they can to get through their grief including a regular support group. As the lack of intimacy threatens to destroy their marriage, both of them are still playing the blame game which culminates with them deciding to sell their house, because it reminds them too much of their son. One day, Becca spots Jason (newcomer Miles Teller), the teenager whose car killed their son and who has retreated back into his shell since the accident, dedicating his time to books on alternate dimensions and drawing his own comic book; she starts following him and eventually approaches him in order to achieve closure. This is unbeknownst to Howie, who starts looking for comfort elsewhere and finds it by hanging out with another member of their support group, played by Sandra Oh.

Abair’s screenplay is brilliant and the casting of two major stars never detracts from the intimate nature of the story that asks the question, “When is it okay to stop grieving?” This is the type of role Kidman excels at and she really makes the most of every scene. Though some of her more dramatic scenes with Eckhart feel a bit overwrought, moments with her mother, played by Dianne Wiest, are quite evocative and powerful as they each try to come to terms with their own respective losses. The drama does let up once in a while to allow lighter moments, mostly involving the ridiculous nature of their support group and the giggle fit Eckhart and Sandra Oh have after getting high before a meeting.

The most impressive thing about “Rabbit Hole” is that it rarely feels like a play. Other than a few dramatic dialogue scenes, the film never stays in one place or with one set of characters for long, while maintaining a surprising fluidity in its narrative that allows other characters to come in and out of their lives, keeping you thoroughly engaged to even their most mundane moments.

Much of this can be attributed to Mitchell, who proved himself as a filmmaker with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” but places himself among the likes of dramatic masters like Eastwood and Daldry by creating a lush and atmospheric film which never visually overpowers the characters or the drama. With such a strong screenplay and performances, it seems inevitable that Mitchell’s contribution will get lost in the shuffle, but the film is just as impressive for the way he effortlessly switches gears from the movies he’s written for himself, and makes a film that thrives on its transparent direction.

During one of Becca’s lunch meetings with Jason, she’s enlightened to the idea of there being other dimensions where things may have played out differently, leading to her uttering the brilliant line, “Somewhere out there, I’m having a good time.” When Becca finally breaks down and allows herself to cry–what we refer to in the biz as Kidman’s “Oscar moment”–it’s the necessary release the audience needs to know it’s okay for them to be just as deeply moved by the character’s situation.

The Bottom Line:
Drama rarely gets a fair shake when it comes to cinema, and while “Rabbit Hole” offers few answers in terms of how people can overcome the grief of losing a loved one, it’s one of the few films that handles grief honestly and in an engaging way without ever going for any sort of sappy Hollywood clichés.