Review: Rabbit Hole

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Nobody wants to go to a film about a dead child. Given the option of Rabbit Hole against something like Little Fockers or Yogi Bear, the vast majority of human beings would select the latter. This is a basic fact of entertainment- watching a ten year old joke involving the last name “Focker” or a 60 year old joke about a bear stealing picnic baskets simply sounds like a more enjoyable and comforting way to spend your Friday night than two hours of a married couple grieving. The mere fact that Rabbit Hole is “better” just doesn’t factor into it for most people.Â

Nobody wants to go to a film about a dead child. Given the option of Rabbit Hole against something like Little Fockers or Yogi Bear, the vast majority of human beings would select the latter. This is a basic fact of entertainment- watching a ten year old joke involving the last name "Focker" or a 60 year old joke about a bear stealing picnic baskets simply sounds like a more enjoyable and comforting way to spend your Friday night than two hours of a married couple grieving. The mere fact that Rabbit Hole is "better" just doesn't factor into it for most people. {{page_break}}

But Rabbit Hole is better, both in terms of quality and sheer entertainment. It's far from a laugh riot or a rollicking adventure, but the way the film doesn't allow itself to become too maudlin or depressing is incredibly impressive. The subject matter is not taken lightly, but the film is nowhere near the miserable pile of bleakness that one might expect. 

Director John Cameron Mitchell dials down some of the more gaudy stylistic flourishes that permeated other work (Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch), leaving Rabbit Hole a fairly spare film visually. Walls are often white and unadorned, and the colors are muted. This look certainly serves the material, even if at times I got the sense that more could have been done to adapt the source material (a stage play) in a cinematic manner. Still, the focus here is on the actors and I certainly can't blame Cameron Mitchell for taking this approach.

The acting is fantastic across the board, with both Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart turning in some of the best performances or their careers. Kidman's emotionally closed off character reminded me a bit of her stellar work in the underrated Margot and the Wedding, though she has much more to chew on here. Eckhart portrays a kind of 21st century patriarch, the sort who asserts his leading position and masculinity through being more in touch with his feelings. His sensitivity and restraint belies serious sadness and rage underneath, and when he finally explodes it is startling. 

A special mention is also in order for Miles Teller, who portrays the teenager who was unwittingly responsible for their son's death. This is a rare case (for a film of this sort) where a character feels more like a real person than a trained and paid Hollywood actor, and a "good job" is in order. Good job, Miles Teller! You stole scenes from Nicole Kidman. Pretty damn impressive. 

John Cameron Mitchell also recruited the ridiculously talented comic artist Dash Shaw to put together some artwork for the film, which jumps off the screen and demands your attention whenever it's shown. If I could purchase the (fictional) Rabbit Hole comic I definitely would. The filmmaker and cartoonist will be collaborating in the future as well, in the form of an animated feature directed by Shaw and produced by Cameron Mitchell. Where… do I sign?

Rabbit Hole isn't an amazing film, not quite up with my favorites released in 2010, but it's great at what it does and well worth watching. The only glaring flaw I can see is that Owen Pallett wasn't able to do the music, as originally planned. The score in the film is perfectly fine, but I'm left to wistfully dream of what could have been. Next time, Owen Pallett. Next time. 

Overall Score: 7.25 – Good. (7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)

Rabbit Hole is a rich, humane film filled with believable characters in relatable situations. Recommended.