…In relentless pursuit of all performances nominated and won!
It would be so easy to immediately peg Rabbit Hole, based upon the acclaimed stage play by David Lindsay-Abaire, as just another film about two parents grieving the sudden, tragic loss of their young son. To do so, however, would be doing this quietly moving film a deep injustice. The beauty in this film – and in its story – is how it masterfully relates the ways in which different people deal with loss and with grief; how it is worked out in everyday life. It causes us to question how we fill that space in our lives vacated abruptly by the ones we love. It is not so much the fact of the loss as the gradual working out and coping with life after the loss.
Nicole Kidman deftly fills the stage shoes of Cynthia Nixon as Becca, the mother at the heart of Rabbit Hole‘s story. At times seeming polarizing and cold when relating to others – specifically, her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart in an amazing performance), mother Nat (the always incredible Dianne Wiest), and sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) – she nonetheless is very real and natural. Where her character could come off as cruel and unfeeling in her grief, Kidman manages to skirt intense pathos in her performance. She anchors the film without treading into overly maudlin territory, and the ways in which she deals with her tragedy are very understandable. Howie abates his grief in a nightly ritual of watching an old video of their son on his iPhone, and eventually takes comfort in the company of a female friend from his grief counseling group. Nat, who lost her son years ago, conveys how a mother never really does let go, but carries that pain “like a brick in her pocket” – and “that’s okay” (an especially touching and pitch-perfect Kidman/Wiest moment). Rather than talking it out in grief counseling – a concept she finds deeply unsettling – Becca takes her own individual, more tangible steps towards pulling herself through her grief. How she attempts to do so has its inevitable backfires – her befriending of the teenager responsible for her son’s death throws her relationship with Howie into even more turmoil – but we never really feel thoroughly disgusted with Becca and her motives as portrayed by Kidman. We understand that she is trying to make sense of her grief while imagining a parallel universe (another theme, hence the “rabbit hole” reference in the title) in which she lives happy and unfettered by her pain.
Look for some brilliant, beautiful moments directed by John Cameron Mitchell between Kidman and Eckhart, and Kidman and Wiest. This film may break your heart at times, but as it happens with both Becca and Howie, it makes you realize that it is, sometimes, truly the process – the dealing, and the gradual piecing together – and not the shattering end result, of suffering and pain that brings us back around to being whole again.