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December 28, 2010 > Movie Review: Rabbit Hole

Movie Review: Rabbit Hole

By Julie Grabowski

Those willing to step away from the warm and feel good spirit of the holidays will experience an emotional journey with "Rabbit Hole," one that plumbs the depths of tragedy and human emotion.

Once a picture-perfect suburban couple with everything, Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) now struggle through their days in the wake of a devastating loss. Their lives are fractured by memory, guilt, sadness, and rage, made more difficult by opposite ways of dealing with their feelings and potential future. Becca is contained and internal, seemingly closed off, while Howie is emotional and accessible, trying to "make things nice." But Becca flatly states, "Things aren't nice anymore," therein exposing the premise of the movie: How do you survive in the face of grief?

How do you deal with pain and loss in the "proper" way, moving among people and places when your world has been shattered? How do you love and support someone who grieves differently than you? Such is the problem for Becca and Howie who are trying to heal and stay together.

Adapted for the screen by David Lindsay-Abaire from his 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Rabbit Hole" is a quietly powerful story that sticks with you and provides a lot to think about. Those familiar with the play will recall that it is set entirely in Becca and Howie's house. Opening the set to include the outside world and additional characters might be necessary for an adaptive move, but in doing so, the story looses the close intensity established by a single location and singular focus on family.

The movie version also seems to forfeit much of the solid humor so memorable in the play. While there are pockets of lightness, the story is unrelentingly bleak and pale. Though it would appear to be springtime, one carries the sense of a gray, foggy day throughout, and Kidman's wardrobe acts in kind - colorless, dowdy, and defeated.

The acting is solid and believable, with Eckhart's more moving and interesting. Kidman has her moments, but is so restrained that there isn't much to hold on to, and she seems more of a sad, floating memory than a solid, relatable person. Dianne Wiest is wonderful as Becca's mother Nat, though the fire of her character seems remarkably toned down from that in the play. Her shining moments come in the scene where she's cleaning out her grandson's room with her daughter, and later in the basement of Becca's house when she explains her experience of grief, the weight of it and it's alterations over the years. Miles Teller as Jason greatly resembles Kidman's Becca, delivering a soft containment that is insubstantial and weightless. However, the scenes with the two characters are tender and somehow comforting, a whisper of hope amid darkness.

The story gets its title from the comic book Jason is creating that centers around the scientific idea of wormholes or rabbit holes running through the universe, at the end of which are alternate realities. Other and happier versions of life are lived at the same time as our known lives. The progression of the comic book throughout the movie is a great touch, its development mirroring the steps needed to move forward in life, one thing at a time, day by day; a reminder that life is a process, ever changing and without a road map, about making choices and doing the best you can.

"Rabbit Hole" is honest and real and doesn't try to solve everything with a pretty bow. It shows life with all its clashes and detours, changing hues and unmarked paths.

Heavy fare indeed, but a very interesting and moving exploration, worth the time.

Running time: 92 minutes
Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material, some drug use and language

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