Wednesday, March 14, 2012

100 Movies - No. 75: Rabbit Hole

75. Rabbit Hole (2010)
Drama, 91 minutes
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest

Here’s a film which made just $2.2 million at the box office, but Nicole Kidman received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Are you one of the few who bothered to go and see it? If not, is it worth checking out on Blu-ray or Netflix?

The subject matter is the likely reason for the film being largely ignored. The title doesn’t give away much either. This is not another live action version of Alice in Wonderland. Rabbit Hole is about one of the worst things that could happen to a parent. It deals with the loss of a child. That doesn’t sound like a fun watch, does it?

The film completely surprised me and I thought it was superbly done.

We aren’t told at the outset that Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) have suffered a loss. The writing respects the audience and allows us to observe their actions. Becca turns down a dinner invitation from a neighbor and doesn’t seem too happy when she discovers her sister is pregnant. Howie views a video of a child on his phone and we soon find out that their 4-year-old boy died eight months previously.

Becca is reminded of her loss everywhere she looks. Some of Danny’s pictures are still on the fridge, his room looks like it hasn’t been touched, and she can see his fingerprints around the house. His clothes are still in the wardrobe so she decides to give them away. After removing the pictures, she informs Howie that she thinks they should sell the house as it’s another constant reminder.

We learn that Danny was run over by a car when chasing his dog into the street. The unfortunate dog is sent to live with Becca’s mother (Wiest).

Becca rejects all of Howie’s romantic advances because she presumably fears that it could result in another child that she might also lose. When she sits in the park or goes to the store, there are happy children everywhere. Imagine having to deal with that. She virtually shuts down her life so that she doesn’t have to face any situations in which she might be reminded of her dead son. 

The couple regularly visits a support group made up of other parents who are dealing with a similar loss. Becca can’t stand facing that and soon decides to quit. She follows a school bus one day and almost crashes while trying to keep up with it, then watches a boy get off the bus and go into his house. Who is he and why was she so intent on seeing him, but not talking to him? He has an important part to play in the story and is responsible for the film’s title, but I won’t reveal why here.

Despite the sad subject matter, there are plenty of moments of light relief. One involves Howie visiting the support group while he’s high and one of the group starts to talk about rage. I guess some things can seem hilarious when you’re in that state.

The story is about whether Becca and Howie will find a way to deal with their grief and move on with their lives. It seems as if they are always arguing about insignificant things as they take out their anger on one another. Each has ways of temporarily escaping the situation and it’s not clear whether their relationship will survive. That question is eventually answered and the whole story tackles the subject of losing one’s child in a delicate and realistic way.

I not the biggest fan of Nicole Kidman and haven't seen all of her performances, but it’s hard to imagine her better than she is here. Her coldness is ideal for the portrayal of Becca. Eckhart does a good job as usual and it's easy to identify with his emotions as he struggles to understand his wife's behavior. Wiest is outstanding as Becca’s mother.

We get to see the characters and their relationships develop and change by the end of the film and the resolution is somehow uplifting. It’s a shame that so few people saw it in the theater.

If you like Rabbit Hole: 

I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of Kidman, but I did enjoy her performance in Australia. She plays a woman who is reluctant to enter into relationships and allow herself to get close to people. Hugh Jackman also stars.

Aaron Eckhart impresses me every time I see him. I'm sure you will be familiar with his performance as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. My favorite Eckhart performance is probably his role as Nick Naylor in Thank You for Smoking. He plays a lobbyist who has few, if any, morals. Jason Reitman knows how to make dark comedy and Eckhart was extremely funny in the role.


  1. Nice review. Kidman's performance was great but I wasn't too impressed with Eckhart here. Too OTT for my taste.

  2. It worked for me for some reason :)