Thursday, January 20, 2011

Love: Rabbit Hole

For nearly the entire run time of Rabbit Hole, the woman sitting three seats away from me in the theater cried.  I was already annoyed with her because she was one of those people who had chosen a seat too close to mine when there were at least 150 open spaces to choose from.  Not only did she do that, but she also frittered away time during the trailers arranging the tub of concession stand soda, a bottled water, and her coffee about her.  I didn't understand how one person could possibly need all of those beverages (none of which I actually witnessed her drinking) to survive a 90-minute movie, but if I had to guess now I'd say she may have been preparing for the complete evacuation of all of her bodily fluids via her unceasing stifled tears.  The thing is, Rabbit Hole is only depressing in theory.  Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star as a married couple coping (or at least going through the motions of coping) with the accidental death of their young son.  This is the catalyst, this is what the film is about, the reminder of the dead boy is ever present, but the movie never seems to be trying too hard to solicit tears from the viewer.  For this woman to be crying, non-stop, through the film, was absurd.  For her to start anew while others were laughing, well, I kind of gathered this hit a little close to home.  Either that, or she has a ridiculous capacity for empathy, fictional characters included.  Still, if that's the case, I have no idea why she was in that theater.  What's more, I have no idea why she had to sit right near me.  Because of her complete inability to hold her shit together, I have her face spliced into every scene of the film.  I kept looking over at her, wondering if there'd ever be a point when she'd stop whimpering
That distraction aside, for a film directed by Hedwig and the Angry Inch's generally bold John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole is an emotionally raw but surprisingly staid dramatic endeavor.  Perhaps my whole experience of the film was colored by the presence of the never ending crier, but, while Rabbit Hole walks the walk of pervasive honesty, of blunt truths and real life hard times, it never quite manages to blossom into that which has not been done before.  The familiarity of the story, the old chestnut of suburban American tragedy of troubled unions withstanding unthinkable hauntings, feels like just another take on award-grabbing Oscar bait.  Rabbit Hole is based on a play by David Lindsay-Abaire, and (as often happens) some of its stagey dramatics seem to lose a little bit of power, to not feel quite at home on the silver screen.  Still, Rabbit Hole manages more successes than failures, particularly when it comes to acting.  Kidman does a very believable, very understated job bringing Becca to life.  Becca is a housewife who was once a career woman, a former stay at home mom now trapped in the house with the constant reminder of what she once had.  Through her we're given the situations that pull the film away from tired redundancy.  Her grieving process is one wrapped in bitterness and curiosity.  She's troubled, yes, she's certainly quite sad, but her reasons are complicated.  She drops out of group to pursue a more direct, very strange way of addressing what's been taken from her.  When she deals with her mother, sister, and husband, she lashes out in fits of sarcasm and pessimistic anger that allow for a vitriolic levity my theater neighbor was clearly incapable of accessing.  With Becca, we're presented with the story's most unique development;  one involving a neighborhood teenager and a beautiful handmade comic book that I won't spoil by explaining.
Rabbit Hole is good, but good in a way that's expected.  As in, with a story like this and actors like that, how could it be anything but good?  For me, it never pushed beyond this.  There was nothing (other than the comic book) there that really pulled me into the story, that made it particularly resonant or especially memorable.  There's something to appreciate, perhaps, in the way Mitchell has approached this material.  His characters are not hysterical, they're very reasonable, very level-headed and rather graceful about their mourning.  It's not depressing, it's not hopeful, it just is.  I suppose that's a feat in and of itself, but not enough of one to distract me from the crying woman just down the aisle.

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