Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rabbit Hole

Watching a couple mourning the death of their son was never going to be happy fun times in the cinema. For that reason many may avoid venturing down the Rabbit Hole, but for those willing to do so, you are rewarded with a truly exquisite film. Exquisitely raw and painful, sure, but also richly humane and deeply cathartic, for David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer and Tony award winning play is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Lindsay-Abaire adapted his own work, with director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus) bringing to the screen the story of Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), a once golden couple who are still reeling from the death of their son eight months before. In frustrated fits and starts they attempt to reassemble their fractured existence, but this is increasingly occurring in isolation from each other. Becca finds a certain solace meeting Jason (Miles Teller), the teenage driver responsible for the accident that killed her son, while for Howie, it’s Gaby (Sandra Oh), a veteran from group therapy, who provides the kind of emotional — and chemical — support he needs.

This all sounds terribly earnest and dour, but the real genius of Lindsay-Abaire’s writing is that it’s laced with the most gloriously dark humour. Becca in particular makes use of a biting sarcasm, which is directed at everyone from other couples in group therapy, to her mother (Dianne Wiest) whose loving overtures are brutally, and comically, shut down. Kidman is simply sublime in this Oscar nominated role; able to evoke the abyss of pain alongside the scathing humour with such and impressively light touch. This is master class acting, and she’s well supported by an emotionally bare Eckhart and the no-nonsense compassion of Wiest. But it is Teller who surprises the most in a beautifully calibrated and honest feature debut. The scenes he shares with Kidman take the film to a whole new level, though all are pitch perfectly directed by Cameron Mitchell.

People in pain are not unlike newborn children, wailing and railing about as they try to get their legs back under them. But what Rabbit Hole so powerfully portrays is that in amongst this desperate keening, there is a wealth of humour to be found. And eventually, a glimmer of grace.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 17 February 2011

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