Friday, May 6, 2011

"Top of the Queue Review" - Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole is such a perfectly made film it's amazing that it didn't do better at the box office or get more than the one Oscar nomination it received.  Based on the Pulitzer prize winning play of the same name, the movie stars Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard and Miles Teller.

Now this isn't a light, happy movie as it deals with the pain and suffering that come when something terrible happens to a middle aged married couple.  But it isn't a dark depressing movie either.  Rabbit Hole is one of those movies that slowly pulls you into it's story using very little dialogue in the beginning, then adding layers of information until the details behind the story come through.  It ends up being an uplifting story about how people deal with suffering, each one in their own way.

The story follows Becca and Howie, a couple in their early 40's, who seem to have everything, including a beautiful house in the suburbs, but you immediately know something isn't quite right when the film begins.  Kidman and Eckhart perfectly play the couple with the mannerisms one would expect from people who have known each other for such a long time.  Since there are moments in the film with very little dialogue, their ability to tell us exactly what they are feeling and thinking just through their facial expressions is extremely effective.  This is something that obviously couldn't quite be done on the stage, and is one reason why the film is only 90 minutes long, as there is less necessity for the actors to tell us what they are thinking, as we can see it on their faces.  Dianne Wiest is Nat, Becca's mother, who we later learn has had to deal with her own suffering from something that happened to her many years ago.  Tammy Blanchard is Kidman's sister, and her dark hair is in perfect contrast to Kidman's blond locks, but their hair is just one of the many traits that mark these two sisters as polar opposites.  Blanchard portrays the sister who is less successful in both career and relationships than Kidman extremely effectively, especially when some news about herself is revealed to Kidman.  Blanchard also just received a Tony nomination this week for Best Featured Actress for her performance in the Broadway revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Nicole Kidman and Miles Teller
Kidman is so amazing in this movie.  The pain and suffering she portrays and her ability to effectively make us understand what she is going through even when she says few words about it, is why she got both an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
Miles Teller is Jason, a 17 year old boy that we first see Kidman following home from school but don't quite understand his connection to the plot until later.  Even though it wouldn't give much away if I told you his role in the story, I'll let you  discover it on your own.  Teller completely holds his own with Kidman in his scenes with her.  I think this is his first major film role and I have to believe he will be getting many more from his performance in the film.

Kidman and Eckhart
The play was written by David Lindsay-Abaire and was also nominated for the Best Play Tony.   Lindsay-Abaire adapted his play for the screen and while the entire play was set in the house of Becca and Howie, he has opened up the story beautifully to now include many scenes outside the house.  I guess this is another reason for the shortness of the film, as instead of having to have the characters explain things, they did outside the house, like they did in the play, they can easily be shown in the film, thus avoiding the need for additional dialogue.  There is also not one moment in the film that is unnecessary to tell the story.

Dianne Wiest
John Cameron Mitchell directed the movie, and while Mitchell is well known for his New York theatre performances in Secret Garden, Hello Again and The Destiny of Me, he is perhaps best known for writing and starring in the Off Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  Mitchell made his film directing debut when he made Hedwig into a movie in 2001.  He followed that film with the controversial Short Bus in 2006.  He would never have entered my mind as someone to transform the play of Rabbit Hole to the screen, but this film is so well made, everything from the camera work, the editing, the lighting to the impeccable acting, I am so impressed with Mitchell's directing of this film and I think you will be too.  I can't wait to see what his next film is.

The original Broadway cast starred Cynthia Nixon in the Kidman role, John Slattery in the Eckhart part, Tyne Daly in Weist's and John Gallagher Jr. as Jason.  We saw the original Broadway cast in this right before Gallagher left the production to star in the Off Broadway production of Spring Awakening, which transferred to Broadway in late  2006 and won him a Tony just one year after he was in Rabbit Hole.  Nixon won the Tony for her performance, and the show was also nominated for Tonys for direction, set and Daly's performance.

John Slattery, Cynthia Nixon, Tyne Daly and Mary Catherine Garrison
John Gallagher, Jr.

The play was just as effective in telling the story, and Nixon, Slattery and Daly were on par with their film equivalents, but I really appreciated how the film completely opens up the story so you can experience certain things the characters in the play only speak about.   I also liked how the film was able to update a key plot element- a home video, and make it more current by now being video shot by a cell phone.

Put this in your queue now.

And Mom, this is a movie I highly recommend for you.

Amazon link for Rabbit Hole [Blu-ray]

Amazon link for the dvd of Rabbit Hole

Amazon link for the Pulitzer Prize winning play of Rabbit Hole

Trailer for the movie -

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