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Entries in Sandra Oh (2)

Saturday
Dec252010

Rabbit Hole

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

Friday
Jul232010

Ramona and Beezus

Well, what a surprise. In a summer that has been bombarded by bloated action flicks and unnecessary 3D extravaganzas, I almost forgot what it was like to see a nice, G rated charmer like Ramona and Beezus. Based off the hit books by Beverly Cleary, Ramona and Beezus hits all the right notes. It pleases the children in the audience while simultaneously reminding the adults what it’s like to be one.

Meet Ramona Quimby (Joey King). She’s nine years and three months old and contrary to what her sister Beezus (Selena Gomez) will tell you, she is not a pest. She’s actually a lively young child who spices up her everyday life with some imagination. Unfortunately, she does so at school, much to the dismay of her teacher Mrs. Meacham (Sandra Oh). It’s because of this that her latest report card suffers, though her parents have bigger problems. Her father Robert (John Corbett) has just been laid off due to downsizing and can’t find another job, which forces her mother Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan) to abandon her job as housekeeper and find one that pays. However, her checks aren’t big enough to pay the bills and it begins to look like they may lose the house, but not if Ramona can do anything about it.

Ramona and Beezus is simply wonderful. Its hopes and aspirations lay only in the desire to make the audience smile and it succeeds. Joey King is simply adorable as Ramona and perfectly captures the essence of a kid. She runs and laughs and screams with her friend Howie (Jason Spevack). She loves her parents and, like all children, has that underlying fear that her parents may get a divorce. She has a pet she adores. She’s a nuisance in school, but not because she’s a rotten child. Rather it’s because she dreams of the impossible and builds whole worlds, many of which you get to see onscreen through cartoony digital effects that effectively show how her imagination works.

On top of her delightful performance and those actors I’ve mentioned above, you also have the impeccably handsome Josh Duhamel and unbelievably cute Ginnifer Goodwin who play old high school sweethearts who are now all grown up and begin to rekindle their old flame. The cast is full of charming, likable people who are kind to each other and love each other unconditionally.

It’s a sweet movie to be sure, perhaps a little too sweet. The whole film teeters on the line of mushy sentimentality and at times crosses it. You get the feeling that this family exists in a world where happiness is the only emotion because, other than a few small moments, little else comes across. There are a few too many scenes that are forced to the point where it begins to feel manipulatively upbeat, like a late water fight scene that leads up to the cheesiest moment in the movie.

Still, the Quimbys are a loving family surrounded by loving friends and it’s hard not to root for them. Despite the title, the film is just as much about the rest of the characters as it is Ramona and Beezus and that’s where the strength of the film lies. It’s easy to relate to the titular characters because we’ve all been there as kids, but it’s nice to see everybody else fleshed out as well. Despite some schlock, you’ll see the genuine chemistry between Duhamel and Goodwin and you’ll feel the part of Robert that fears he may not land a new job and won’t be able to support his family. All of that is handled with care.

Ramona and Beezus is an absurdly cheerful movie that will undoubtedly move even the manliest of men. Everybody wants to receive a similar love and acceptance that the characters get in this movie and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two by the end.

Ramona and Beezus receives 3.5/5