RABBIT HOLE A-
USA (91 mi) 2010 d: John Cameron Mitchell
USA (91 mi) 2010 d: John Cameron Mitchell
Any movie featuring Dianne Wiest these days is definitely worth seeing, as she makes rare screen appearances and has simply become one of the more openhearted actresses whose captivating warmth is unlike anyone else, as opposed to Nicole Kidman who has taken on empty-hearted, angry and hateful roles, characters that retreat into the comfort zone of grief and self-centeredness so they no longer give a damn about anyone else, where tragedy is her excuse to behave so badly. Based on a Tony Award and Pulitzer prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, there is already a structure in place here, where a married couple, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) find themselves in the throes of grief after losing their 4-year old son in an unfortunate car accident when he chased the family dog into the middle of the street. By the time we meet them, the characters have retreated into a disturbing sense of isolation and feelings are already compartmentalized, where characters are under extreme emotional duress expressed by their failed attempts at self control, where occasionally extremely hurtful and inappropriate comments would blurt out, usually in the presence of their family, including Becca’s kindhearted mother (Dianne Wiest) and hard-edged sister (Tammy Blanchard) who announces she’s pregnant. So life goes on, with or without them.
While they live on an idealized lakefront home with plenty of glass windows, this is an emotionally austere drama filled with gaping silences, where the couple is so over-defensive that every word and thought is misunderstood or somehow a reference to their lost son, where there’s no chance whatsoever that they could talk about it. When they go to a grieving family support group, Becca mocks how ridiculous it all is, offering ingratiatingly phony comfort when there’s simply none to be had, the exact view she takes with her mother who sympathizes with Becca, as she lost a 30-year old son to drug addiction. But Becca wants no sympathy or support, as she has no quick fix solutions, but finds it’s better to grieve and be unhappy, irrespective how others feel about it. Howie, for instance, feels ready to try to move on, not to plummet to some undefined abyss of despair where there’s no way out, but Becca will have none of it. Her grief is her life, and she’ll allow no one to stand in her way. In this manner, she’s become another fiercely contemptible character that Kidman associates herself with these days, older and more hurtful roles, like MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (2007), where she becomes monstrous. Her mother and sister take refuge in each other, as they build a line of defense against Becca, who is constantly in attack mode. Every time her mother attempts to soften the blows and provide a mother’s nurturing love, Becca hurls abusive invectives with the ease of a sailor’s profanity.
There is a wonderful twist in the story that becomes the best part of the film, where something finally captures Becca’s interest and she’s not so surly all the time, where we finally see a softer side that is remarkably poignant and sensitive. It’s as if she’s discovered her own support group that she’s forced to keep secret from her husband. At the same time, Howie has discovered other women are interested in him, providing comfort in areas Becca is just not yet ready to deal with yet, remaining sexually frozen in time, afraid to ever feel again. Their emotional flight from one another becomes a personal road of salvation for each, which is a very fragile and delicate thing, as both continue to avoid one another while secretly seeking comfort in their own ways. It’s here that the delicate music by Anton Sanko plays such a key role, as there’s finally something brewing underneath the emotional fireworks that continue to gnaw at their lives. The film is restrained and movingly directed, shot unfortunately on digital, but also superbly edited, with segments cut into small fragments of life, ordinary moments that resemble our own lives, never overreaching or creating a distance between the audience. Instead, this is a film of inclusion, where after repeatedly being kept out by the incendiary emotional trauma, the audience is finally allowed back into the center of the picture, where this family is no different from our own, and it’s the human condition that finally brings us all back together again inhabiting the same space. This is an edgy and painful journey of redemption exposing shattered pieces of the human soul, perhaps reminiscent of the transcending sadness in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (1997), where by the end no one feels quite the same as when they began the journey.