Everyone grieves in their own personal way and no one has the right to tell anyone else how they should or should not do so. This is the basic tenet of John Cameron Mitchell's sharply written and acerbically wistful Rabbit Hole. The story of one couple dealing with the loss of their only child - played with a brilliant lucidity by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart - Mitchell's film (based on the play by David Lindsay-Abaire, who also adapted it for the screen) is that thing that critics hate saying for it being so cliche (though many toss it around as willy-nilly as a monkey with a banana). That thing is a tour de force.
In both acting and writing, Rabbit Hole is nothing shy of remarkable. And the fact that Mitchell, unlike with his first two directorial efforts (the hilariously subversive farce Hedwig and the Angry Inch and his pathetic look-at-me followup, Shortbus) where he is, manages to back away and allow his actors to do what they do best, only adds to the necessary importance of shattered psyches and scarred pieces of acting that make the film work as a sorrowful yet strangely uplifting catharsis. Kidman hands in one of her best performances in an understated role of grieving mother and hardened wife and Eckhart is wonderfully tragic as a father and husband who doesn't know where to go from where his life was harshly altered.
Never once does the film feel like a manipulative movie - much the way Hollywood would tackle such a subject - and even though it does get somewhat trite at times - mainly in the various subplots - the performances of Kidman and Eckhart, as well as the always great Diane Wiest as Kidman's mother (the relationship between mother and daughter, with all of its nuances, is as real as one can get), are stunning enough to offset any minor flaws in the rest of the film. The movie does somewhat crumble near the end - though it redeems itself nicely in its final moments - but still the performances (especially the always astonishing Ms. Kidman, an actor who can show so many levels of emotion with just a tilt of the eyebrow or a twist of the mouth) redeem all they can. Everyone grieves in their own way, and Rabbit Hole shows that. [03/12/11]