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This time of year, known as Oscar season ‘round movie parts, typically sees its fair share of heavy drama. We watch as characters break down, filled with pain, sadness over loss, out of depression or both. But for each real heart wrenching story, there are three that exist simply as emotional exploitation – the director and writer get people to cry on screen in order to evoke tears from the audience but have no further depth. Fortunately, John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole doesn’t fall into the latter category.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart) who continue to feel the loss eight months after their young son was killed when he run over by a car. Battling to both keep the memory of their lost son alive and trying to overcome their grief, the relationship between the two is tested as they try separate methods to heal their pain.
What’s truly impressive about the film is not its ability to induce intense emotion, but, rather, the complete opposite. When dealing with a heavy subject like grieving parents and a child’s death, the first instinct may be to bring out those intense feelings in every scene, but Cameron Mitchell instead chooses another path: levity. There are many places in the movie that are filled with loud laughs instead of tears and while it may be awkward for the audience at first, you eventually see the light behind the dark. This even includes scenes vital to the plot, such as Becca’s dislike of the “God freaks” in support group and a scene in which Howie decides to smoke a little pot with Gaby (Sandra Oh) as the two characters grow closer. Because of these scenes, the audience doesn’t feel the weight of the film pushing them deeper and deeper into their seats.
Beyond the subject matter, it’s impossible to comment on Rabbit Hole without discussing the jobs done by the leads. As we’ve come to expect, Kidman’s performance is top notch as Becca, projecting her pain at a perfect pitch while playing a woman being torn apart. Not to be forgotten, however, is the effort put forth by Eckhart, who once again shows an incredible knack for aggrieved anger. It’s simply amazing watching a character who seemingly has no control over their emotions with the knowledge that the actor playing them has complete control over their own.
John Cameron Mitchell’s film is destined for success this winter, but truly shouldn’t be written off as “Oscar bait” as I’m sure many will. Sporting a surprisingly balanced tone and phenomenal efforts by every actor involved, Rabbit Hole is an impressively good movie that refuses to take advantage of its audience and manages to be both entertaining and moving.
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