Nicole Kidman is back on her game here. (Sorry Nic, I had trouble understanding your reasoning behind Stepford Wives, Bewitched, Birth, The Golden Compass and even Australia.) But in Rabbit Hole, directed with a rare grace by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus), Kidman shines bright and is worthy of the Golden Globe nomination she received. Better, though, is Aaron Eckhart, who turns in one of the best performances of his career as a grieving father trying to come to terms with the untimely death of the young son he shares with Kidman’s character. (Why Eckhart was overlooked for a nomination is an injustice.) Rabbit Hole is a moody beast. It’s a film that delves into a heavy subject: loss. Kidman and Eckhart are the married couple who drifted apart in the aftermath of their son’s death.
Kidman’s Becca isn’t overly revealing about her inner turmoil. Eckhart’s Howie is. He wants to understand his grief and move through it. Together, they’re emotional bumper cars. When Becca backs out of group therapy, Howie plows ahead finding solace in conversations with a married woman (Sandra Oh) who shares his points of view. Interestingly, Kidman seeks some levity of her own in the most unlikely places—by befriending her son’s killer, the teenage boy (Miles Teller) driving the car that accidentally killed her child. In time, they share heartfelt conversations about life on a park bench—he’s into comics and ponders life in an alternate universe. Watch, too, for a powerful turn by Diane Weist, who plays Kidman’s mother, who herself experienced tremendous grief with the loss of her son years earlier. “At some point,” Weist tells Kidman, “it becomes bearable.” What an emotionally messy treat this is. And when it comes to emotions—messy or otherwise—leave it to the masterful nuances of a quirky director like Mitchell to pull from his actors some of the finest work we’ve seen from them in years. Things could have veered horribly off course here, but by purposely not berating us with the main issue—loss sucks and it’s tough to get over—Mitchell gives us a much richer tale about how these particular people are living through death. In many ways, Rabbit Hole shows us the unexpected, seemingly unreasonable gains that tend to rise from the ashes of loss. Transformative indeed. 91 minutes. Rated PG-13. (★★★1/2) Watch film trailer >>>