9 February 2011
RABBIT HOLE- Review
Based on his own play, writer David Lindsay-Abaire tells the story of Becca and Howie, whose four year old son was killed in a traffic accident eight months prior. Having exhausted the traditional channels of dealing with grief, Becca still finds herself in a deep state of anguish, and the couple's repression is damaging their marriage. After growing sick of bereavement groups, she lets her husband continue going to those sessions alone while she tries to find solace in more unusual places.
The comparisons to Blue Valentine do the film no justice. Although I think both are very good, Rabbit Hole is clearly a very different beast. The false expectation built up by these tenuous comparisons meant that the film was constantly subverting my expectations, as I expected it to take a left turn into tragic misery at any moment. For instance, when we're told that Howie's son died after being hit by a car and then see how little time he spends looking at the road when he's driving, you might have a certain expectation of where the film's going. But it doesn't go there.
Moreover, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are worlds apart from the performances given by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. They are of a similar calibre, and both Kidman and Williams deserve their respective Oscar nods in the Best Actress category, even if they're both likely to lose out to Natalie Portman. But at the same time, Kidman and Eckhart powerfully play their desolation out in the context of characters carrying on with their everyday lives. Eckhart's Howie might appear to suffer less, but that's because the central conflict of the film begins with Kidman, as Becca, deciding that enough is enough, and beginning to properly seek catharsis instead of wallowing in sadness and resentment forever.
The only major criticism I would have about the film, and about this approach, is the underlying cynicism about those traditional means of bereavement counselling. In the context of focusing on Becca and Howie, it works. When you grieve, your loss is the centre of your work, and so it's easy to sympathise with their frustration in the early scenes, in which another pair of bereaved parents talk about how their child's death was God's plan. But at the same time, certain developments in the film seem to imply that doing things conventionally can only lead to rack and ruin- I might agree on the God thing from an atheistic standpoint, but it's not to say that I begrudge anyone who actually finds peace through that channel.
Rabbit Hole is now playing in selected cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Rabbit Hole, why not share your comments below?
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.