John Cameron Mitchell directs an unflinching look at the life of a couple after they lose their infant son in 2010’s Rabbit Hole. Staring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, the film, based on an award winning play, is polished and features great performances but didn’t quite succeed in it’s attempts to draw me in emotionally.
Nicole Kidman plays the role of Becca, a woman who is struggling emotionally since the death of her son. Her husband Howie, Aaron Eckhart, has been traumatized as well but he’s able to go on about his life, as that’s what is required for their family. The hardest aspect of Becca’s life is that she doesn’t work. She has the entire day to look around the house and be reminded constantly of what she no longer has. The two of them realize that life isn’t working the way it should and seek help through group therapy. Becca, in a moment of selfishness interrupts another struggling couple to preach to them about what her views are on religion and question their beliefs. This is the part of the film that I really enjoyed. I liked seeing these emotional responses because it made me feel like I really knew this character. She doesn’t say the right thing all the time. She isn’t politically correct or particularly care about other people’s feelings. She’s hurt, and she wants others to know that she’s hurt. As the film moves on we’re treated with some raw and emotionally charged arguments between the two main characters. The first movie I thought of, even though the subject is vastly different, was Closer. I love the arguments in Closer and the arguments here reminded me of that. This felt like a real argument, not something read on a set, directed, written, edited, this felt real and I love these sections for it. I only wished there was more of it.
Where we started to go a little on in my eyes is with the sub-plot of Sandra Oh’s character and her flirtation and possible love connection with Howie. What I didn’t enjoy about it, was it ventured too far into the Hollywood version of the film. When I think of what Hollywood generally puts out when a couple is struggling, I think about the man being withdrawn, the woman too emotional, the man potentially cheating on her, and she potentially leaves him. That’s what I think of in a struggling marriage in Hollywood and the with sub-plot, it felt a little too easy in what is otherwise a challenging character study. I must say, Eckhart is charming as always and he plays the role of grieving father very well. He’s an actor that is as good as the material given to him. I don’t feel like he elevates a poor script or character but when he chooses the proper movie, he can be quite good.
I’ll admit I used to really enjoy Kidman in her Days of Thunder/Far and Away/Batman Forever/To Die For days. Not really because of her performances in particular, but more of the combination of her looks/performance/character she was played. Then something happened. She stared in The Stepford Wives and it was around then I noticed she looked like a Stepford Wife. She looked and to this day looks as though she’s made of out plastic. What she’s had done and what she hasn’t isn’t for me to discuss but she looks different. Normally, I try not to allow her personal life to change how I view a performance but in this instance it’s hard not to. For me, when the film and the director needs Kidman to get emotional, she can’t. She can sound emotional but I just don’t see it on her face anymore. That’s really a shame too as I feel like she’s capable of some more great performances in her career, but most of them won’t be seen through her plastic shell of a face.