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Customer Review

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Microscopic exploration of grieving process proves illuminating despite narrow characterizations, February 10, 2011
This review is from: Rabbit Hole [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

From the outset, one must recognize that writing a film about a couples' grief after their four year old is hit by a car and killed, is quite difficult. This is what 'Rabbit Hole', originally a stage play by David Lindsay-Abaire, attempts to do. It's difficult precisely because there is no visible antagonist which an audience can identify with. Rather, the antagonist is abstract--you could even describe it as a 'force' which the grieving parents must fight against. A force, which threatens to consume the protagonists--not in their grief, but in an overwhelming anger toward one another.

Both Nicole Kidman's character 'Becca' and her husband 'Howie' (Aaron Eckhart) agree in theory that eight months after the accident, they both must 'move on'. But it's Becca who recognizes that Howie is still too angry about what happened and is unable to grieve. That's why she refuses to participate in support-group meetings, which she regards as a form of denial--the couples who participate in the groups, are merely going through the motions and are not in touch with their true feelings. Becca goes further and insists that she and Howie give up their dream house in the suburbs--that way Howie will not be able to obsess over their lost child if he's not in proximity to all those objects that remind him of their shattering loss. But Howie cannot give up those objects--at the film's midpoint, the relationship between the couple is severely tested after Becca accidentally erases a short video of their deceased son on Howie's cell phone. We can see that Howie's anger is driving Becca away from him and she resorts to doing things for herself that may bring an end to her inner turmoil (Becca, who truly wants to move on, finds Howie's anger is causing her to become angry too!).

So Becca decides to test herself by approaching the 'inmost cave' of her greatest fear. That would be of course having to meet up with Jason, the teenage boy, who was driving the car that killed their son. Becca tests herself to see whether she will be consumed by her own irrational anger (after all, the boy was not actually responsible at all for the accident). As it turns out, Becca bonds with the boy, and their relationship connotes that she has moved further along than Howie, on the complex spectrum of mourning and grief. Jason's imaginative Rabbit Hole comic book, a tale of a parallel universe where this tragedy hasn't happened, brings great comfort to Becca. In a powerful scene, she's also now able to weep, as she sits in her car and watches Jason drive off with friends (in slow motion), after his high school graduation.

Rabbit Hole's subplots, whether it be Becca's relationship with her mother (who also suffered a loss of a child), Becca's jealousy toward her sister now pregnant and Howie's flirtation with the now separated Gaby from the support group, only seem to be distractions in comparison with the principal dramatic moment of the film--the confrontation between Howie and Jason. How a grown man can yell at a practically defenseless teenager underscores the horrific effect the accident had on Howie's psyche. Fortunately, the blowup is cathartic, and although Howie is not willing to meet with Jason and apologize, he asks Becca to act as an intermediary--she will go to the boy and reassure him that Howie's crazy outburst was a temporary aberration and he really didn't mean what he said.

So 'Rabbit Hole' must be admired for keeping one's interest despite the lack of a tangible, visible antagonist. Nonetheless, I urge everyone to read A.O. Scott's excellent review of 'Rabbit Hole' in the New York Times who recognizes that Becca and Howie are not "grounded in any recognizable social world". Rabbit Hole is a story of obsession (in this case, a working out of grief). Since they are so obsessed (and we as the audience are made to focus so much on this obsession), we find out little about the details of the characters' lives outside this focused conflict. Hence the portraits of the principal characters should be viewed as somewhat limited.

Despite the characters' limitations, one cannot ignore the excellent performances of Ms. Kidman and Mr. Eckhardt. In the end, the performers leave us on a note of hope--the simple act of holding hands suggests that Howie is now ready to put his anger behind and move forward with Becca, toward a lasting recovery.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 8, 2011 2:02:15 AM PST
Laer Carroll says:
Very useful. I was never going to see this movie, having lost a child of my own. And I still am not. But it made me understand why Kidman was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2011 8:05:55 AM PDT
Adam says:
I am sorry to hear that you have lost a child, someting no parent should have to bear.

I can't imagine what you went through and I don't wish to. For that reason I probably won't watch this film.

I am too cowardly to even think about what you went through.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2011 7:50:58 PM PDT
Turfseer says:
The film doesn't focus on the actual death of the child and the aftermath. The story picks up many months later and explores the relationship between the parents as they try to cope with their loss. There's no need to be cowardly. Go and see it!

Posted on Apr 23, 2011 4:11:59 PM PDT
R. Gawlitta says:
Good, complete review. Maybe too complete...I haven't seen it yet. Spoilers?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 23, 2011 8:13:19 PM PDT
Turfseer says:
The spoilers alert is at the beginning of the review. Did you not see it?

Posted on Apr 23, 2011 8:38:05 PM PDT
R. Gawlitta says:
Sorry, Turf...
I missed the spoiler alert.

It's OK; I just watched the film and enjoyed it a lot.

Grief is dealt with in very individual ways; Naomi Watts' portrayal in 21 Grams was criticized, but I found no fault.

Impeccable acting from all.

Posted on Sep 24, 2012 12:32:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 24, 2012 12:51:25 PM PDT
Turfseer: I think you gave a one-sided review. Much of the anger Howie feels is the eight months of Becca's severe distancing herself from the marriage, friends, the sister, the mom, and even the poor family dog.

Becca chooses to focus all of her coping efforts on impersonal things like gardening, cooking, getting rid of clothes, and even selling the house. The one deliberate effort they make to exchange personal feelings is immediately sabotaged by her interruption of bitter, rude, mocking condemnation of another grieving mother so much that future empathy and sharing with that parent or any other becomes unlikely.

This woman may have loved her son, but she had been a slightly crappy wife, friend, neighbor, sister, and daughter to begin with. The grief had made her worse up until then. Although I am glad it ends in her deliberate plan to reconnect with friends and neighbors and make them feel comfortable (instead of her sharp browbeating.) Maybe she really made a firm decision to stop exploding at people.
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