The end of the year is the busiest time for film critics. To ensure their movies get consideration for awards voting, studios send out DVD screeners and plan theatrical screenings for what they think deserves credit. I mention this because Rabbit Hole is only one of literally dozens of films I’ve watched within the last week. The post date above the review says December, but I’m writing this in November, mere days before I dole out my votes for my critics organization’s end of the year awards and, well, I don't suspect Rabbit Hole will be winning much of anything.
Adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire’s stage play of the same name, the film follows a grieving couple as they attempt to deal with the loss of their son who died eight months earlier after running out into the street and getting hit by a car. Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Aaron Eckhart) are dealing with the tragedy in their own separate ways. Howie wishes to attend group meetings with other parents who have suffered such a loss while Becca takes comfort in meeting up and discussing what happened with Jason (Miles Teller), the kid who accidentally killed her son.
The buzz regarding Rabbit Hole, and presumably why we were shown it so early, surrounds Nicole Kidman’s performance and, indeed, if it is to receive accolades for anything, it will be for that. The movie itself is slow, boring, tedious and more than a little manipulative. So yes, Kidman is better than that, but her performance is not award worthy. It isn’t as nuanced as a grieving mother should be and her Australian accent seeps through unintentionally in heightened moments. She nails the side of her character that is angry, but she comes too light with the sadness.
I would argue that her character isn’t even particularly likable. Her rage is understandable given the circumstances and as she says at one point, she isn’t receiving any comfort anywhere, but that doesn’t excuse her rude and sometimes violent behavior. In one scene, as she peruses the rows of a grocery store, she spots a kid who asks his mother if she will buy him some Fruit Roll-Ups, to which she says no, a reasonable parental decision. But Becca becomes so angered by the woman not giving her son what he wants that she tosses some verbal hatred her way before physically assaulting her. I wanted to feel for her plight, but events like this gave me plenty of reasons not to.
Outliving your child and having to watch him or her die must be one of the most unbearable things to carry and I hope I never have to, but Rabbit Hole doesn’t go into enough detail to show just exactly what the experience is like. Instead of exploring certain topics, like Becca’s lack of faith in God (besides, what kind of God could do that to her baby?), it brushes them by with little to no interest. It hits core concepts like bullet points when they should be explored like paragraphs.
Rabbit Hole is a movie that wants you to feel a certain way, but I felt emotionally indifferent. Every time something effective happens, something ineffective offsets it, like a scene where Howie and a friend get high and begin to laugh when a parent details his daughter’s battle with, and eventual death from, leukemia. It’s in poor taste and in a movie that wishes to win us over as badly as Rabbit Hole, things like that are inexcusable.
Rabbit Hole receives 2/5