Rabbit Hole
Don’t worry. You’ll be nominated. They give you at least that every year, no matter what.

Theatrical Release Date: 12/25/2010
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito


I’m not wearing as much makeup … GIVE ME ANOTHER OSCAR!

Oscar-bait. Noun. Definition: The term given to many late-year films with (supposed) A-list actors, all clamoring for attention by critics and voters in various organizations.

Here, I’ll use it in a sentence: “Rabbit Hole”, starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart and populated with many other actors all grieving about their own issues, is Oscar-bait.

Based on the play and screenplay written by David Lindsay-Abaire, the film is about the aforementioned actors playing a married couple who are struggling, after eight months, to cope with the loss of their only child. Kidman rejects traditional means of therapy, family and support groups, in favor or handling things on her own. Eckhart is trying to be accommodating but is doing better at transitioning through the grieving process and is finding it harder and harder to connect with her.

Thematically, it touches on many of the same issues in “Welcome to the Rileys” which lost all of its early buzz, wasn’t sent out to critics via screenings or a DVD screener, and barely made a dent in the public psyche. That’s a shame because if I’m picking one of these two films to highlight the difficulty in moving on after the death of a child (both to car accidents), I’m not going down the “Rabbit Hole”.

The performances, both leading and supporting, are all fine. Kidman is good early on, when being confrontational and spiteful, but fails to turn the corner towards the end (I’ve never believed in her attempts to play softer or warmer characters). And Eckhart does a nice job, but I feel like I just saw him handle many of these same emotions in last year’s “Love Happens“, only he gets to shout a lot more here.

I will give director John Cameron Mitchell credit for not making this look like a play that was just converted into a film (i.e., “Jack Goes Boating“). And if there’s one element that truly succeeds, given the manner in how this film was cast, it’s Miles Teller playing the teenage boy looking for redemption through conversations with Kidman.

Thanks in some part to not being one of the usual awards seekers whose face draws audiences into the theaters, Teller adds some much needed sincerity to the project. Though of course, as a film critic who sees hundreds of movies in a year, I find it easy to become slightly jaded when presented with this obvious, attention craving, fare.

There are the requisite screaming scenes that make for good clips at awards shows and everybody cries. Boo hoo. However, I see efforts like these made every year and I’m sure somewhere on YouTube, there’s a mash-up of actors yelling, sobbing, and yelling while sobbing, which is how I saw this film.

Now, if you love Kidman or Eckhart, and enjoy attempts at heavy drama, then I very much understand wanting to see “Rabbit Hole” but you shouldn’t read too much into the 3 out of 5 rating I’m giving it. Mitchell and the cast paint by numbers and get the job done though it all felt so obvious and a little desperate so the overall effect left me cold.

3 out of 5