Ten Word or Less Review: It’s sad when kids die.
The trauma that comes with losing an infant child is unfathomable to most and an experience that few would relish to watch a movie about. Rabbit Hole bravely tries to portray this expereince by examining a married couple 8 months removed from their tragedy. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are the devistated couple grasping with life after their 4 year old son was accidentially struck by a car . The grim subject matter is directed with taste by John Cameron Mitchell, never suffocating under dourness, but something about Rabbit Hole keeps getting under the skin in the wrong way.
Eckhart and Kidman are Howie and Becca, a couple trying to lift the fog of despair that hangs over their daily lives. With the immediate pain of lose now subsided, and just a crushing, dull ache in it’s place, they’re starting to deal with their residual, long term grief in different ways. Howie finds group therapy useful but Becca thinks their fellow parents in lose are righteous, grief junkies. Becca starts to shed evidence of their son from around the house which angers Howie to no end. He isn’t ready to let these things go and thinks Becca’s being insensitive in trying to systematically ‘erase’ their son. Becca though can’t stand the constant reminders which cause her so much pain. Back and forth they go on their emotional see-saw. Eckhart and Kidman achieve a convincing dynamic of a struggling couple trying not to completely fall to pieces and the film stands tall on their performances. While this backbone of the story gets the movie to where it wants to go, it’s too often undermined by occasions that seem emotionally contrived and out of sorts.
Rabbit Hole keeps setting up one uncomfortable and strained situation on top of another and after a while it starts to grate. Kidman’s character in particular feels like someone who has lost the ability to manage real world relationships as she constantly fails in her dealings with family and strangers. It’s certainly intentional and built into the character on purpose, but it strains credibility on more than one occasion. Despondent or not, who could give their dead kid’s clothes to their pregnant sister and not think about how inappropriate and weird it is? It’s moments like this where Rabbit Hole fails to give its characters enough credit as they blunder obliviously through awkward situations making them even more awkward. Director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) could’ve done with less instances of this kind of insightlessness, it makes his otherwise touching characters flirt with being downright dense in places. Helping balance out things the other way is an engaging subplot about Becca attempting to befriend the teenager who accidentially killed her son. Newcomer Miles Teller gets some of the best, albeit fleeting, material as a teen struggling to come to grips with the accident he’s at the tragic center of, channeling his angst into a comic book about multiple dimensions entitled Rabbit Hole.
It feels wrong to pick on a movie trying admirably to deal with subject matter as sensitive as this, but I still think there was a less manipulative way to work through the story in some places. While it’s not perfect it does provide an honest point of view about how the lose of children to parents can be complete in its devestation. Eckhart and Kidman’s couple want desperately to save themselves but their reactions to the experience grow divergent with time and it slowly pulls them apart. The movie implies their survival as a couple is possible, but guarantees nothing. In the end it doesn’t say ‘everything will be okay’ so much as it says ‘everything simply will be.’