Monday, December 27, 2010

Reel Thoughts: The Mourning After

Given playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s pedigree and the awards heaped on Rabbit Hole when Cynthia Nixon played the lead on Broadway, it’s both surprising and disheartening to see how conventional and mundane the film version is. It isn’t director John Cameron Mitchell’s fault, nor is it the actors, all of whom give excellent performances. Even Taz the dog is a charismatic screen presence. The problem lies with Lindsay-Abaire, who has crafted a thoroughly by-the-numbers drama about a husband and wife (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) trying to get over the accidental death of their four year-old son. Rabbit Hole wouldn’t be out of place on the Lifetime Movie Network, although usually Lifetime films have a stronger narrative.

Becca and Howie Corbett had a perfect life eight months ago: a gorgeous Victorian house, an impossibly sweet-looking toddler and a loving marriage. Then, little Danny chased the family dog into the street, where a teen-aged driver (Miles Teller) accidentally ran over and killed him. Their world now destroyed, the couple faces Danny’s death in different ways.


Howie finds comfort looking at everything that reminds him of his son, while Becca shows no emotion and starts getting rid of Danny’s clothes and toys. Howie goes to a parents’ grief support group, while Becca refuses. Becca runs into Jason, the boy who killed her son, and seeks him out to talk. Becca’s mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) and irresponsible sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) try to help her, but Becca just lashes out at them.

There are tears, shouting and unlike on stage, very little laughter. You’re grateful for strong dramatic scenes, like one where Becca delivers a much-deserved smack to a self-satisfied mom in the grocery store, and the scenes where Eckhart and Kidman finally let loose. As a whole, however, Rabbit Hole is just a solid, well-made TV movie with big screen pretensions. Its parts are greater than its Rabbit whole.

UPDATE: Rabbit Hole is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

2 comments:

  1. Don't you just love the work of Tammy Blanchard?
    From her Emmy winning performance as a young Judy Garland to her scary dark role as Sybil Dorsett or her dramatic role as Nina the waitress in Bella this young startlet keeps bringing us one solid performance after another.Whether small parts as in Robert DeNiro's The Good Shepherd- Blanchard's performance stays solid in your mind.
    Now in Rabbit Hole as Kidman's sister "Izzy" when Blanchard comes on the screen you can't take your eye's off her performance.
    When is Hollywood going to finally catch on -Tammy Blanchard is super star material.

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  2. You're right--Tammy Blanchard is a great actress. I loved her Judy Garland. Rabbit Hole the film missed a lot of her character's humor, unfortunately. so she doesn't really get the chance to make much of an impression.

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