By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY John Cameron Mitchell
STARS Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart
One of the best films of 2010, Rabbit Hole features a devastating performance by Nicole Kidman that would deserve every Best Actress prize on tap were it not for the presence of Black Swan's Natalie Portman on the awards scene.
Kidman is all coiled tension and seething anger as Becca, who, along with her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart, also top-grade), is still attempting to cope with the accidental death of their young son eight months earlier. The loss has caused some distance between the couple, and both handle the tragedy in different ways. Howie, more sentimental than his spouse, wants to again experience closeness with Becca and, after repeated rejections, toys with the idea of an affair with a grieving parent (Sandra Oh) he meets through a support group. Becca, lashing out in anger at everyone around her (including her dithering mom, nicely played by the great Dianne Wiest), finds some measure of comfort in striking up a friendship with the blameless teenager (a fine debut by Miles Teller) who was driving the car that struck her son.
In tackling David Lindsay-Abaire's play (with a script penned by the playwright himself), director John Cameron Mitchell incidentally, going 3-for-3 on my year-end 10 Best lists, following Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus makes sure to never betray the material with maudlin melodrama or cheap theatrics. By giving us characters who are sympathetic yet also ofttimes infuriating, the film earns every audience emotion the hard way, not through pandering but by never flinching from its uncomfortable truths. For viewers willing to brave a beautiful bummer, Rabbit Hole proves to be a wonder.
(Matt Brunson picks Rabbit Hole as one of the 10 best pictures of 2010. Go here to see his complete Best & Worst lists, with write-ups and photos.)