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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 24, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 52
Searing Rabbit Hole a poignant drama
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Searing Rabbit Hole a poignant drama

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

It's been over eight months since a devastating tragedy and Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Aaron Eckhart) are trying to make the best of things, attempting to return to as close to their normal lives as they can. They're still going to group, still having to listen to the likes of Gabby (Sandra Oh) and her monosyllabic husband who after eight long years still haven't moved on. But things aren't getting any easier, and with Becca's mom Nat (Dianne Wiest) always wanting to equate her loss with their own, and with her younger sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) newly pregnant, putting the past behind and getting on with life is proving far more difficult than either husband or wife surmised.

Directed by Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch auteur John Cameron Mitchell, and with a screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire (adapting his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play), Rabbit Hole is a wonderfully moving and deeply emotional drama that's as funny and lively as it is poignant and tragic. The story of two parents trying to pick up the pieces after losing their only child, this is a movie that finds light within the darkness and the beauty in despair. It is bleak but not barren, tough but not uncaring, finding truth in unspeakable hardship resonating all the way through to the marrow.

Not a lot happens, but not a lot has to. Everything is fairly straightforward. Becca quit her job to raise her child, and now she sits in an empty house day after day reminded of what it is she's lost. Howie for his part tries to understand, goes out of his way to relate, all while hungering for the sensitive and sensual connection between the two of them that has now vanished, maybe for good.

Izzy's pregnancy is the wheel that sets things moving in a new direction. Howie flirts with the idea of having an affair. Nat tries to ease tensions by talking about the emotions she went through when her own son, and Becca and Izzy's brother, met with his own too-early end. They talk and they debate and they all try to get one another to understand what it is that they are feeling even though they don't quite have a grasp on what exactly that is themselves.

The genius here is that Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell know how to stand back and watch, understand that even in great tragedy great moments of warmth, light and humor can be found. This isn't a movie that revels in pain, doesn't try to yank on a person's heartstrings as if they were The Edge strumming an eclectic guitar. The filmmakers let the words and the actions of the characters speak for themselves and in doing so go to a place of profound intimacy that touched me beyond measure, and while surprises are few that didn't make the tears I shed any less genuine.

To no one's shock, I assume, a film like this is an actor's showcase. Kidman, Eckhart and especially Wiest shimmer like rays of sunlight splashing against a wet seaside rock on a cloudy summer's day, all of them digging into their characters to the point they almost disappear within them. Also quite excellent is newcomer Miles Teller, his performance of such a raw, sometimes visceral intensity, I found my eyes continually drawn to him. He and Kidman have an early scene on a park bench that put lumps in my throat, a singular request to 'do this again' leaving me awestruck while I dug furiously for tissues to dab my eyes.

Weeks later Rabbit Hole has kept nagging at me and as the days have passed I've discovered moments, bits of dialogue and emotional truths that have continued to reverberate. I keep pondering it; keep playing in my mind the scenes that spoke to the center of my soul. In short, I haven't been able to get it out of my head since first watching it, and I can't think of a stronger statement of recommendation to go out on than that.

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