Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Stephen Mailer, Mike Doyle, Roberta Wallach, Patricia Kalember, Ali Marsh, Yetta Gottesman, Colin Mitchell
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire, based on his play
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, some drug use and language
Running Time: 91
Date: 09/13/2010

Rabbit Hole (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It takes a lot to ask an audience to sit through a "dead child" movie, but happily Rabbit Hole avoids showing the buildup and actual death of the child; it begins more rationally about eight months after the car accident. Now, heartbroken parents Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) try as hard as they can, every day, to exist. The normally subversive director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus) delivers this grim material with a certain amount of grace, and the best I can say for it is that he makes it watchable, and even, at times, compelling.

Howie likes going to his group therapy meetings, shared with other parents that have lost children, even though the majority of them spend too much time talking about God. Becca gets fed up with these meetings, but Howie keeps going and forms a small bond with Gaby (Sandra Oh), a longtime veteran of the group. Meanwhile, Becca -- who quit her job to be a full-time mother -- has a much harder time being in the house, and looking at the myriad of reminders. One day, she spots the teenage driver, Jason (Miles Teller), who accidentally struck and killed her boy. She gets the idea to follow him and speak to him... not to blame him, but just to find some kind of connection.

The title Rabbit Hole comes from Jason, from a comic book he's drawn about alternate realities. There's a striking image of "rabbit holes," where different things happen to people, with different outcomes. Becca says she likes the idea that somewhere, in some alternate universe, she could be happy. It's too bad that the film, which is based on a play by David Lindsay-Abaire, doesn't make more of this sub-theme. One sequence frantically crosses Becca and Jason, while Howie drives to Gaby's house, but the two sequences don't really match or juxtapose one another. Howie's world is too straightforward for such things as alternate realities.

But Eckhart and Kidman are good enough here to form a genuine emotional relationship, and a heartrending push-and-pull as they try to deal with their inhumane, excruciating, indescribable circumstances. It also helps that Dianne Wiest is here, performing some of her acting magic as Becca's mom. She also lost a son, an adult drug addict, but the pain is the same, she explains. More than anything, this is an actor's movie, and -- as a good actor himself -- Mitchell understands and appreciates them, and gives them every opportunity to shine. Even if the bigger themes don't add up to much, these performers make the movie worthwhile.

Lionsgate's vibrant, vivid Blu-Ray comes with an interesting commentary track with director Mitchell as well as writer Lindsay-Abaire and director of photography Frank G. DeMarco, as well as deleted scenes and trailers.

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