One of the best responses to parallel universe theory comes from the film Rabbit Hole where Nicole Kidman sighs on a park bench and says, “Somewhere out there I’m having a good time.” Becca and Howie (Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) are an affluent Connecticut couple whose four year old son ran out into the street chasing a dog and was hit and killed by a car. Eight months later, Becca and Howie are both responding to their grief, but in separate ways.
Howie has taken to group therapy, remembers his son through videos, and displays a lot of visible emotion about his loss. Becca, on the other hand, begins to take the refrigerator art down, packs up the clothes, and rolls her eyes when the therapy drifts into religious territory. When one distraught couple says God took their daughter because He needed another angel, Becca quite pointedly says, “Why didn’t he just make another angel?”
Becca and Howie are also having ‘intimacy problems’. Howie thinks they’re ready to try again, but Becca is certainly not ready for that step. The screenplay is smart enough for the parents to not blame each other or even the car’s driver for what happened. It’s nobody’s fault, but they cannot agree on how to move forward together. Becca is trying too hard to forget, but Howie is trying too hard to keep the kid in the picture.
This really is a mature screenplay with effective scenes and dialogue throughout and a sharp ending which makes a good film even better. Unfortunately, I kept waiting for the inevitable explosion (or implosion) of Becca. I suppose it is unavoidable in a story like this. At some point, the yelling is going to happen. My only criticism about that is the entire audience knows it’s preordained and may play the guess the scene when it finally occurs and who will be the character who takes the brunt of it.
Nicole Kidman received the only Oscar nomination for this film and I believe it’s because she gets more emotional scenes than Eckhart does. They both cry, but she cries more. Kidman also produced Rabbit Hole and personally picked Eckhart to play Howie. I have no idea what previous work she saw of his to convince her that he had the chops to take on such a heavy role, but he pulls it off. The director, John Cameron Mitchell, is a much stranger choice. He is known for Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus, two films which have absolutely nothing in common with Rabbit Hole. In fact, the film’s writer also has no other specific drama credits on his resume; his other most recognizable work is Inkheart.
A film about emotional devastation from the guys who brought you Shortbus and Inkheart does not look good on paper, but on screen, it works. Rabbit Hole is a very good movie.