MRR Movie Review: Rabbit Hole

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A 2010 drama film directed by John Cameron Mitchell and based on a play by David Lindsay-Abaire. The plot follows suburban couple Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) as they grieve over the recent death of their four-year-old son. The little boy was struck by a car driven by a teenager (Miles Teller). Dianne Wiest plays Becca's mother, and Sandra Oh portrays a woman befriended by Howie in their support group for grieving parents.
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Movie Review: "Rabbit Hole"

-- Rating: PG-13 (thematic material, some drug use, language)
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: January 14, 2011
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Genre: Drama

Everyone deals with loss and the resulting grief in very different ways, but parents who lose a young child have to cope with more than most. There is the usual mourning period, but many times it is extended when a child is lost, because the parents will forever wonder what their child would be like if the youngster was alive a year, two years, and decades later. The confusion and pain behind grieving over a dead child is at the heart of "Rabbit Hole," an emotionally riveting film that boldly takes on a very personal and painful subject.

The film begins on a happy note, as most tragedies do. The setting is the happy home of Becca (Nicole Kidman) and her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart). They are blissfully married and doting parents to Danny (Phoenix List), who is just four years old. Danny has a dog to complete the family, but the poor pooch runs out into the street one day, with Danny hot on his heels. Unfortunately, teenager Jason (Miles Teller) is driving in the street, and can't stop in time to avoid hitting Danny, who dies from his injuries right in front of his home.

The loss is sudden, tragic, and very shocking for the audience, as well as the characters. The film fast forwards to several months after the funeral to see how Becca and Howie are coping now that Danny is buried and they have tried to move on. Both are attending support groups, but only Howie seems to be making any emotional progress. Becca gets angrier by the day because she can't find a way to deal with her loss. It doesn't help that her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) is trying to compare the loss of her adult son to the loss of Danny. Becca lays into her over the unfair comparison, and doesn't hold back, even though she knows it may damage her relationship with her mother.

In fact, Becca doesn't seem to care about how much she is damaging any of her relationships. She tries to be happy for her sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard), who accidentally ends up pregnant. Instead, Becca finds herself more depressed than ever because it reminds her of her pregnancy with Danny. She sneers at her support group, alienating several people who are trying to reach out to her. She even thumbs her nose at God, feeling that He abandoned her and took away the one good thing in her life. The only relationship left to destroy is the one with Howie, though by withholding sex and emotional intimacy, she is slowly tearing them apart.

Films that deal with loss often have a happy ending, or at least a hopeful one. Too many times, Hollywood prefers to wrap things up with a pretty bow because audiences don't always respond well to unhappy or ambiguous endings. "Rabbit Hole" breaks this rule by not going melodramatic in order to have a happy ending. Instead, it challenges the audience to figure out for themselves where the characters are going and if they will see the light at the end of their tunnel of grief. It is a gutsy move on the part of director John Cameron Mitchell to stick with this ending instead of tying up all the loose ends nicely.

Kidman turns in what is arguably the best performance of her career, and was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for it. She holds back nothing as a grieving mother who can't fathom the depths of her sorrow. It is a raw performance that takes a lot of guts and nerves to play, but Kidman does it brilliantly. Eckhart is also superb as her spouse, who seems to have adapted better than Becca to their loss. It turns out Howie just hides his grief better, and when he finally explodes, he is every bit as emotionally raw as Kidman.

The film is based on the play by David Lindsay-Abaire, who adapted it for the screen. Hiring Lindsay-Abaire is just one in a long line of fantastic decisions that the film's producers made, because he really hit the high notes of the play. Film adaptations of theater plays can sometimes be lacking, but that is not the case with "Rabbit Hole." The emotions are raw and completely relatable, a testament to the script. It doesn't hurt that Kidman and Eckhart are fantastic in their parts, but any capable actor could have done a serviceable job because of the quality of the writing. The fact that two stellar actors took the lead parts just enhances what is already a poignant film. It will stay with audiences for a long time.

Rating: 4 out of 5