Movie #39: Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole seems like one of those hard-to-enjoy movies while you’re watching it; one that you may or may not appreciate by the end. Nicole Kidman gives an Oscar-nominated performance as Becca, the mother of a young boy who died in a car accident. Becca and her husband Howie (played by Aaron Eckhart) go through the motions of day-to-day life, they continue to interact with their family and friends, but they both seem to have trouble coping with their loss and being able to move on. They secretly try to find ways of coping: Howie frequently replays a video of his son on his smartphone, and Becca starts stalking the teenager who drove the car that killed her son. The most difficult part of watching this movie was the high level of tension in every scene. These characters were clearly repressing their feelings and it seemed like we were just waiting to see how those raw emotions would come out from one scene to the next. I wasn’t sure what point being made. Was this supposed to be real life? Are we expected to understand that typical movies and plays (this screenplay was written by David Lindsay-Abaire based on his own play) make it too easy for their characters to overcome devastating emotional trauma? Or is this just meant to be a slice-of-life snapshot without a message? Adding to the challenge, there are many scenes in the first half of the movie where a character is doing something, meeting someone, looking at something, talking about someone and it’s hard to get the point. The other characters are not introduced, or the thing that the character is doing is not explained (I gave it away in the summary above, but it’s not even clear what happened to their son until far along into the movie). I guess we are supposed to draw conclusions from clues in the scene, or wait until later trusting that it will be made clear. Those scenes are often very quiet, with soft piano or some other delicate soundtrack, which only makes the frustration more pronounced. It makes the viewer feel like a bit of an intruder or voyeur (and maybe that’s the point). As you might expect, this whole situation and their behaviour puts a lot of strain on Becca and Howie’s marriage. Unfortunately, because we’re kind of dropped in the middle and don’t really get a chance to understand, I don’t really feel much for them. I don’t care if this breaks them up (actually because of his likeability, I almost feel like I want Aaron Eckhart to leave Nicole Kidman). I don’t know if Kidman’s performance deserved an Oscar nom or not. This seems like the kind of role that big awards would go for, and she does break down in tears at a few points. If you thought that Nicole Kidman was always kind of a tightly-wound ice queen, this is not the role that will change your mind about her (for that you might try her next movie The Paperboy, where she vamps her way into Zack Efron’s pants in order to get him to do something murderous for her). That all being said, I actually liked the movie’s ending, since it hits a kind of revelatory note for Becca and for Howie — and not merely because it meant that this somewhat exhausting movie was over (3 out of 5).

39 down, 11 to go!

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