In Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, director John Cameron Mitchell pushed sexual limits, broke genre boundaries and did both with an all-embracing generosity. He’s made some of the sweetest naughty movies of our time. Rabbit Hole marks a major progression. Gone is the euphoric underground sensibility, replaced by more broadly accessible storytelling and impressive formal control. Taking its place among the highest quality contemporary American drama, Rabbit Hole starts from a superb script interpreted by first-rate actors doing some of their best work.
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play Becca and Howie Corbett, a couple trying to mourn, but unsure how to do it. They have retreated into politeness and private rituals, appearing more and more isolated in their upper middle-class home, which looks especially barren now that their young son is gone after a hit-and-run tragedy.
Unable to mourn but unready to re-enter daily life, Becca rebuffs her family, snapping at her more reckless sister and humiliating her mother (Dianne Wiest) every chance she gets. She even turns her sharp tongue on the members of the support group which she and her husband attend. As Howie makes genuine efforts to connect – including an overly earnest attempt with another mourning parent, played by Sandra Oh – Becca begins to pursue a course even she doesn’t understand. She starts to reach out to the boy who killed her son, a teenaged driver whose life was irrevocably changed by the incident. Their relationship, full of curiosity, suppressed rage and a surprising mutual recognition, forms the fascinating counterpoint to the discordant notes of a marriage in crisis.
Mitchell shapes this material with maturity and grace. Dianne Wiest gives a nuanced performance to match the best of her work. Eckhart is superb as a husband tortured by both the death of his son and the withering of his marriage. Kidman is remarkable. We expect disciplined, precise work from her, but there is new range here, and a willingness to show frayed emotions that makes this one of the finest performances of the year.
Description by Cameron Bailey
Principal Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh
Producers: Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech, Nicole Kidman, Per Saari, Gigi Pritzker
Executive Producers: Dan Revers, William Lischak, Linda McDonough, Brian O’Shea
Cinematographer: Frank G. DeMarco
Editor: Joe Klotz
Sound: Ron Bochar, Ben Cheah
Music: Anton Sanko
Production Designer: Kalina Ivanov
Production Company: Olympus Pictures/Blossom Films
“Rabbit Hole” will be in select theaters beginning December 17.
To find out more about ‘Rabbit Hole’, visit the official website.