Sunday, December 19, 2010

Movie with Abe: Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Released December 17, 2010

Losing a child is an extraordinarily terrible thing. It’s difficult to convey on screen the pain associated with a loss since it’s such an individual experience, and it’s also a challenge to make the realization of such a story bearable. David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole” was a play that has been produced a number of times over the last five years, and this marks its first transition from stage to screen. Lindsay-Abaire is on hand as the screenwriter, and John Cameron Mitchell, director of “Shortbus” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” directors this harrowing and occasionally quirky film.

Some have raised objections that Cynthia Nixon of “Sex and the City” fame, who won a Tony for her performance in the show on Broadway, did not remain in the role for the film. This situation is similar to that of “Doubt” several years ago, when Meryl Streep took over a role originated by Cherry Jones on Broadway. While Nixon’s absence may be lamentable, Nicole Kidman is as good a choice as any to replace her, just as Streep was for Jones. This is a welcome return to prominence for Kidman, who effortlessly slips into the role of the prickly Becca, a complex character whose steeliness is just a front for the fact that she doesn’t know how she’s supposed to mourn the loss of someone who died so young. Kidman conveys so much in her hastily shot glances and snide comments, and she’s not the only terrific performer whose talents are on display. Aaron Eckhart, whose most memorable role prior to this, in “Thank You For Smoking,” has been comedic, does a magnificent job of playing a broken and troubled spouse who isn’t so willing to suppress his feelings and suffer in silence. The two make for an electric and compelling pair.

The dialogue of “Rabbit Hole” reveals its theatrical roots, yet the lines don’t feel out of place as spoken in the context of this filmic universe. Eckhart and Kidman create an intimate dynamic that still functions well when they are surrounded by a physical rather than imagined world. The film is occasionally inventive, utilizing a comic book from its universe to both literally and figuratively illustrate the struggle undergone by the characters, and usually simply effective in a straightforward way, telling an interesting story and combining top-notch performances with strong writing and tight direction to create a worthwhile and meaningful film.


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