Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”)
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire (“Inkheart”)
Delivering her best performance since her Oscar-winning role as renowned author Virginia Woolf in 2002’s “The Hours,” Nicole Kidman doesn’t take her part as a grieving mother and turn it into a typical heartrending exercise.
As Becca, Kidman captures a mother’s anguish after she loses her 4-year-old son in a car accident, but she also fleshes out sensitivity, bitterness and humor in a role that could have easily come off as tedious as the mourning parents Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg play in “Lovely Bones.”
The difference here is that director John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) is working from a script written by David Lindsay-Abaire based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. A “rabbit hole,” most notably from the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” is exactly where Becca and her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are trying to crawl out from. After their son dies, nothing makes sense. It’s like they’re trapped in a world they no longer recognize.
Eight months after the tragic accident, Becca is ready to move on. She no longer wants to attend support group meetings and starts to get rid of anything in the house that may remind her of her son. Howie is more comfortable about expressing his feelings about his loss. He watches home movies and keeps pictures around. He also tries desperately to save his marriage from caving in. In one compelling scene, Howie attempts to seduce Becca into having sex with him. The innocent foreplay quickly turns into an argument as Becca makes it clear that life will never been the same again.
“Rabbit Hole” takes the more-is-less approach in storytelling, but unloads the emotional tension through well-written dialogue and some surprising twists in the narrative that keep it distressingly genuine. It’s impossible to even fathom what Becca and Howie are going through unless you have experienced the same pain, but “Rabbit Hole” will have you sympathize with this broken couple. You can feel them slipping away from each other with every straining moment.