Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole (U.S., 2010) directed by John Cameron Mitchell, ‎1hr 32 min‎‎utes

Nominated for 1 Oscar:
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Nicole Kidman)

It began when I was pregnant so I blame the kid for this... At that point, I had a very difficult time watching anything too physically graphic or involving a child in jeopardy or hurt. I remember feeling physically ill watching Crash (1996) for instance. As my daughter J matures and becomes a young adult, this squeamishness lessens. But I admit I was reticent to see this film for the reasons I have cited above.

The death of a child is a sort of plot point which can collapse a film - the theme is so overworked, so laden with volatile emotion that one can easily succumb to a sort of boredom regarding the parents' grief or conversely, horror and repugnance at its theme. The director John Cameron Mitchell treads a fine line here between maudlin and touchingly emotional. The choice of Mitchell as a director seemed odd as he is especially known for Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Short Bus but listening to a personal interview he gave it made sense. He had lost a brother at a very young age so obviously has a lot of empathy for the characters involved.

Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart (the latter robbed of an nomination for Best Actor here I believe) are Becca and Howie Corbett, the parents of a four year old killed in a car accident. They each respond differently to the situation. Becca withdraws into an icy silence and survives by removing all vestiges of the boy's existence including clothes, toys, pictures he has drawn on the fridge and even the puppy he was chasing when he ran into the street. This rightly infuriates Howie. The best scene in the film is his confrontation with Becca on this issue.

Howie relies on a parent support group and grows closer to Gaby, another mourning parent (Sandra Oh - cast again in her perpetual "always a bridesmaid never a bride" role here) who is divorcing from her husband over what he perceives as her inability to overcome the tragedy of her own loss.

The film is saved, I think, by Becca's odd but touching attachment to the boy who was driving the car that killed her son. Becca begins to seek him out, following him, and the relationship almost appears to be one of Becca consoling the boy who is also grieving for his part in the tragedy. I'm not sure I buy into it but grief is an amorphous, strange thing which assumes many guises.

The teenager Jason (Miles Teller) is a sad-faced, doughy boy - lonely, talented and clearly haunted by what he has done. He is a graphic artist who is creating his own comic book which fascinates Becca. The comic book appears to assume a sort of central place in the film and in the relationship between Becca and - but its significance alludes me. 

The husband and wife harbor secrets - Becca's relationship with the boy feels not that different than Howie's secret attraction to Gaby - I feel that there is an underlying sexual tension between both "couples" which is disturbing to the viewer.

Everything exacerbates Becca's loss - her mother (Dianne Weist) compares the death of the 4 year old to the death of her own drug-ridden son who died as an adult and Becca's flaky sister's unanticipated pregnancy by a man she hardly knows - both clearly irk Becca and offer no emotional relief.

A rapprochement is eventually formed between husband and wife as must be - the marital relationship could not survive an event of this magnitude without one.  

I don't know if this is a particularly good film although I admired the performances of all the principals. I cried throughout it but, as you know, that's just not enough to qualify it as a good film.  

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