|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Wednesday, 02 February 2011 08:38|
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Grief. A source of inspiration for all kinds of films, from proper serious Ordinary People to rom-com turd PS I Love You. Awards folk love grief, of course, so when the trailer for Rabbit Hole hit, it looked like an Oscar-grabbing pile of manipulative drivel. But amazingly, it doesn't feel like that. This death-stricken drama is actually, in a way, enjoyable.
Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) are the well-off parents of young boy Danny. But when he gets hit by a car, their lives are torn apart: the dog gets kicked out; the house becomes a shrine to the past; and marital conversation turns to awkward silence. It’s a painful thing to witness, and that’s just the start of an intense 91 minutes.
Exploring each adult’s way to cope with loss, James Cameron Mitchell swaps Hedwig and the Angry Inch for something more low-key and sombre. The visuals are plain, basic stuff, but the director zooms in on his cast: Howie wants to cling to Danny’s drawings, cuddling the dog and sleeping in his son’s empty bed. Becca, meanwhile, is keen to chuck out Danny’s clothes and - in a weird move - befriends the boy who was driving the car that fateful day (Teller).
It’s the odd conversations that arise out of these actions that offer emotional insight. The title comes from a comic book about parallel universes, a subject which seems out of place until the moment arrives. “That’s a nice thought. That somewhere out there I’m having a good time,” Becca opines to the pale-faced teen on a sunlit park bench. It sounds cliched, but things don’t quite play out the way you expect in David Lindsay-Abaire’s script, which makes it that bit more natural.
Most surprising of all is the amount of laughter there is. A lot comes from Kidman, who spends the film in full-on passive-aggressive mode: “God needed another angel…” “Then why didn’t he just make one?” she snaps at a teary couple in counselling, leaving Howie to pick up the pieces. Eckhart is solid too, his downbeat crinkled face weathered by sadness, even if he does look like a muppet when he gets angry. He looks even more like a muppet when he gets stoned in a car park.
It's impressive that Rabbit Hole is such a restrained beast. There’s no scenery chomping or shouting at the members of the Academy in the audience. It’s a heart-rending examination of bereavement, powered by heavyweight performances that aren't overbearing. You’ll be moved, but you’ll never feel manipulated.
Rabbit Hole turns death and loss into uplifting, understated cinema. Is that actually possible? Good grief, it is.
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