Becca and Howie Corbett are a happily married couple whose perfect world is forever changed when their young son, Danny, is killed by a car. Becca, an executive-turned-stay-at-home mother, tries to redefine her existence in a surreal landscape of well-meaning family and friends.
The death of an adult can create both emotional turmoil and social anxiety depending on how close one is to the deceased. How we feel about death and what we can do to comfort others is difficult territory to navigate. However the death of a child is infinitely more difficult to accept. It is one of our society’s great taboo areas and every parent’s worst nightmare. This is the world of the movie Rabbit Hole.
Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhardt) are dealing with their grief blindly. Nothing they attempt can help them. Becca seems motivated some times and paralysed with inaction at others. Howie goes to work and has sympathetic co-workers, but to some extent he is, like Becca, operating on autopilot. Both attend a support group for parents whose children have died and are not in agreement about the usefulness of this process.
In fact, Becca and Howie are not in agreement about anything. They are separate from each other and only occasionally surface to attempt communication. Meanwhile life for their friends and their larger family continues. Becca and Howie are definitely an upscale, white-collar couple, but she definitely comes from a blue-collar background. Dealing with her mother and sister is an ongoing challenge for her.
The topic is handled with the sensitivity and depth that it demands. But screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire (adapting his play) has made sure that this is no one-note drama. As well as the grief, anger and sadness of Becca and Howie there are also moments of comedy as they try to come to terms with their tragedy, especially when dealing with other people. Lindsay-Abaire is good at finding the humor in socially uncomfortable situations and for the audience this release is necessary in order to continue the journey of the film.
RABBIT HOLE is the third movie in John Cameron Mitchell’s short but groundbreaking body of work. The director was also responsible for the award winning HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH and SHORT BUS. RABBIT HOLE is the first feature he has directed but not written. He has taken a restrained and perhaps surprisingly conservative approach to bringing the play to screen.
The movie is a straight down the line drama for adults. Eckhardt and Kidman are excellent. Kidman’s performance has been nominated for an Oscar. Sandra Oh of Grey’s Anatomy is good as the morally superior Gaby. The great Dianne Wiest is memorable as Becca’s mother Nat.
Overall this is a good film about a hard subject. It has a few moments where the tasteful cinematography, music and restrained tone become too slick, but this is a minor quibble. Considering the oversupply of lightweight fluff on the big screen, RABBIT HOLE attempts to tell a difficult tale and for the most part succeeds admirably.
RABBIT HOLE is screening now in Australia. It runs for 91 minutes. I rated it 4/5.