Thursday, 3 February 2011

REVIEW: Rabbit Hole

Dir.: John Cameron Mitchell
With: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart.

Some dramas based around the theme of loss and grief can be extremely manipulative, melodramatic and sentimental. Rabbit Hole cleverly avoids this foul trap. Based on a theatre play with Cynthia Nixon of SATC and John Slattery of Mad Men, which in its turn is based on a Pulitzer-winning book, Rabbit Hole is a calm, measured story of a married couple who try to cope with their son’s accidental death and preserve a sense of normalcy in their lives. Now, that doesn’t sound particularly enthralling. You’d be surprised though – there is something life-assuring in both characters; as much as they suffer on the inside, their buttoned-up natures push them into trying to move on and come to terms with what had happened. They both find their redeemers in the unlikeliest of people.

Nicole Kidman gives a good, even performance as a smart, used-to-be-in-control, reserved woman who can’t help rationalising her grief. Aaron Eckhart’s character is more raw and his way of dealing with the trauma is perhaps more human in its weakness. There are some really nice scenes between Nicole Kidman’s character and her new friend, a shy teenage boy; they are easily the best and most natural scenes and dialogues in the film. Other than that, the characters and their lives appear rather sketched-in and are not persuasive enough. Maybe this was consciously done in order to focus on their emotional states, but the lack of detail in their stereotypical existence undermines the whole film. This kind of approach works better in theatre I think.

Much has been written about Nicole Kidman’s immovable forehead. I honestly tried to make up my mind about it whilst watching the film – and it proved to be extremely hard! There are definitely wrinkles on the forehead when she raises her eyebrows, but at other times it looks pretty porcelain-like, and not in a good way. So I don’t know what to think.

She is nominated for an Oscar for this film, which is a well-deserved achievement. Her acting here is certainly well calculated, in a way, it is quite similar to her character in The Others. Whether she will win remains to be seen – Natalie Portman’s insane ballerina is of course more of a knockout performance due to the nature of Black Swan. Kidman’s role in Rabbit Hole is quieter and more mature. What will the critics pick?

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