Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

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Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

#1 Post by Jeff » Sat Nov 06, 2010 10:12 pm

Really impressed with this. Based on the premise, I was fearing a Lifetime Original Movie. There's nothing schmaltzy or phony here though. It's full of wonderful dark humor that buoys the overall meditation on grief. From beginning to end the tone is just pitch-perfect. I haven't seen the David Lindsay-Abaire play it's based on, but Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell have done a remarkable job of adapting it in a way that feels neither stagebound nor falsely "opened up."

This is Nicole Kidman's best role in years, Aaron Eckhart is predictably strong, and Diane Wiest steals every scene she's in. I love how Kidman and Eckhart's characters are at their most vulnerable when they are pretending to be resilient. These are tough roles handled with incredible aplomb. Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell have really captured the way couples fight and argue in a manner that feels more authentic than just about anything I've seen, and they understand how men and women handle grief and other profound emotions in completely different ways.

I suppose there's not a whole lot of depth to the obvious themes, or much beneath the surface. The titular concept, which is broached by an important supporting character, doesn't really bear on the proceedings in any meaningful way, but his description of it (with accompanying drawings) is strangely comforting.

For me, this is also a major leap forward for John Cameron Mitchell. He elicits incredible performances from all of his actors. Everything is rock-solid from a technical standpoint, with sharp editing and a gentle, haunting score. Mitchell's earlier work indicated natural talent, but here he shows great versatility and cinematic intellect. I don't think he made a single bad decision in handling the tone of this very difficult film.

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James Mills
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Re: Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

#2 Post by James Mills » Wed Jan 05, 2011 9:02 pm

I hadn't realized that Rabbit Hole was based off Lindsay-Abaire's play prior to entering the theatre. Having the privilege of reading through the play a few years ago (as Jason's character), seeing his name role through the opening credits was a real treat. I found this film to be every bit as endearing and rewarding as the play. This may be the finest casting of any film in 2010, as Eckhart, Kidman, and Weist are completely absorbed by their roles. Mitchell accents their performances with subtle direction with a humanist (rather than naturalist) emphasis; this film is about these people, not their surroundings. The soundtrack is well paced and mostly appropriate, as I never found it to be heavy-handed or distracting. It seems to hide behind Mitchell's finely tuned character development in every scene, punctuating his visual storytelling methods of contextualizing even the secondary characters.

My only minor issues with Rabbit Hole seem to be conscious decisions by Mitchell that I would have personally changed. Some interactions feel over-edited and perhaps compromise their affect, particularly the meetings between Becca and Jason. Their moments together felt more emotional in the play, but perhaps Teller's intentionally dry mannerisms also contribute to this. Mitchell also has a unique style of framing, often cutting off the edges of his players' foreheads and having his focal points border around the edges of the frame (a la Antonioni or Chen Kaige). I'm not sure of the purpose of this outside of his own style, but it was sometimes distracting from the film's Realist intentions. In this sense, the verisimilitude of Rabbit Hole is best illuminated in the handheld scenes, and I think I might have preferred the whole film to be handheld (though Mitchell's slow zooms would have thus been omitted as a result).

These matters are of little relevance in comparison to the sheer vigor of Rabbit Hole. Not only does it imbue the riveting emotionalism of tragedies like The Sweet Hereafter, but it also presents an enlightening message that feels unique for the genre: that loss can eventually become apart of you. Loss is something that is painfully indelible, but it shapes us, defines us. For these reasons, I believe this to be the most powerful film of 2010, and perhaps the most memorable.

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Re: Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

#3 Post by knives » Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:38 am

I want to respect this one more than I do. This nothing bad about it, the cast's wonderful and the direction is competent. There was just nothing to grasp onto for engagement. Watching it I became totally conscious of it being a movie. Despite being written as honestly as possible the characters never became more than that. Maybe it is because I've seen this exact story played out a dozen in real life played out exactly the same way, but there was nothing that said this is a story worth telling especially in this way. There's nothing in the technical side of things that's bad, it's just that nothing stands at as worth engagement.

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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Re: Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

#4 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:52 pm

I saw this today and I fully echo Jeff's praise. It's been awhile since I last watched Kidman in anything, but she blew me away here. I knew what to expect from Eckhart, but Kidman really stood out for me. That said, their chemistry together was quite good and for awhile it felt like they were actually married. I see where knives is making his judgment and I don't disagree too drastically, but this film was still very fresh for me and I was rivetted to it. I don't think that Mitchell staying out of the actors' way is too much of a bad thing here. For a story about tragedy, I was rather pleased by the ending. I also found thematic resonance in two scenes: "Why didn't He just make another angel?" and "I think I was speeding that day." The former more for mocking our ability to find answers in this world and the latter in trying to offer false assurance. He says in that scene that maybe he was doing thirty-one or thirty-two in a thirty - I found that very amusing as if such an infinitesimal difference really was what wrought the havoc. The way that the film dispensed with these two attitudes was effective and true, I felt. This also lead the film down the way to explore the grief itself rather than getting tangled up in metaphysical speculation. The difference between Eckhart's grief and Kidman's denial was compelling enough. It's very enjoyable and I'm quite glad I caught it in the theatre. I look forward to seeing it again - and reading the play eventually - as Kidman and Wiest were great together. I'd love to see Kidman and Eckhart work together again.

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Lemmy Caution
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Re: Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

#5 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:32 am

My favorite film of the past decade. Impressive cast. Overall Kidman is convincing and she has some small reactions that are just perfect. I like that all of the father's grievings are shown as deep and equal. The main problem is that Kidman and Eckhart are grieving separately and their grief has pulled them apart.

The supporting roles and actors are terrific. Diane Wiest as the mother who also has dealt with loss and now is just lost. Sandra Oh gets an interesting role as group therapy devotee who can't move on. i like her quick understated line readings, someone who has learned to put people at ease. Trying to remain upbeat and connected, for me she's the saddest person in the film. Miles Teller has a similar low-key understated vibe, young and uncertain and full of guilt. The relationship he forms with Kidman is touching and unique. I like the ambiguity, how even both of them don't really know what they are looking for or what's going on, but it seems to help. Kidman has conflicts with her family, her husband, her best friend has gone missing, and her old workplace has changed and she isn't ready for.
Bittersweet and sad that the only one Kidman can connect to is Teller.

The nice thing about the 31 or 32 mph bit is that it informs us succinctly that he's really a nice sincere kid, and that he's been beating himself up about this in all sorts of ways. And while that extra 1 or 2 mile per hour really makes no difference in how careful his driving was, it might have made the difference between death and just a close call. There are some other subtle touches in the writing. For the open house, Kidman says that she has valiumed the dog, which shows her antipathy to the dog due to its role in the accident, but quietly lets us know that she must be taking some pills to cope. Another good small moment is when their argument in the car almost leads to an accident -- shades of The Accident -- and Kidman quickly looks in the backseat. Eckhart responds and Kidman explains she was just checking on the cake, but all we see is the baby car seat and not the cake on the floor. Effective.

I also thought the music was bang-on appropriate, never overwhelming, not overused, just subtle sad themes at the right moments. And I liked the switches to handheld that provided more immediacy and intensity, but was glad the film relied mainly on a more somber approach.

For me, everything works in this film.

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