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Rabbit Hole (Blu-ray Review)

18 Apr, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Street 4/19/11
Box Office $2.2 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic material, some drug use and language.
Stars Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Miles Teller, Giancarlo Esposito, Sandra Oh.

Just as this past December was wrapping up, two of the best movies in years about marriages in trouble opened 10 days apart: Blue Valentine and this adaptation of the David Lindsay-Abaire play that won a 2007 Tony. Each got its lead actress (respectively, Michelle Williams and Nicole Kidman) merited Oscar nominations, and both played (at most) a combined total of four auditoriums in what Al Roker would call “my neck of the woods.” Which happens to be one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.

Oh, well, this is why we have home viewing — and besides, why would anyone want to make grown-up entertainment available in public arenas when the industry has to have all those freed-up screens for the likes of Little Fockers and Yogi Bear? In any event, Rabbit is a strong ensemble work with an especially good role for Kidman, who’s had a tough go of it recent years after a spate of indifferent or at least indifferently received pictures. The movie proves the actress can still bring it, and certainly she remains lovely, though it continues to look as if there’s been an injection of some of that awful Barbara Hershey gunk into her lips.

I don’t know what the statistical breakdown is on the major causes of marriage breakups, but one would think that the loss of a child would be right up there with extra-marital affairs. The couple that Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play have, in the past year, lost theirs — a male youngster who ran into the street chasing his dog and got hit by teen who wasn’t driving recklessly (though, in an attempt to be fair to all parties, the kid concedes that he might have been speeding just a little; he just isn’t sure).

In a tight 90-minute rendering that never gives much indication that it was ever a play, we see how both parties (friends and relatives, too) react to the situation. Though it’s never a case of the wife being wrong and the husband right or vice versa, we do feel ourselves switching allegiances back-and-forth a little when one of them frustrates the other by going overboard. Eckhart lives in the past some by watching old videos of the child to an excessive degree and throws an unthinking fit when Kidman takes it upon herself to befriend the teen driver. She, meanwhile, takes chilliness to intimidatingly high levels and isn’t ready for even mild affection months after the fatality. But the script (which Lindsay-Abaire wrote) never wavers too far without injecting some humor, which is something viewers should know if they’re thinking of rejecting this subject matter out of hand. Here’s a wife who knows for sure her husband is trying to sell her on unwanted sex because he has put Al Green on the stereo. Talk about giveaways.

The director is John Cameron Mitchell, and you can bet that there’s nothing in Hedwig and the Angry Inch or Shortbus that indicated he would be a comfortable fit with this material. But he is. Dianne Wiest plays Kidman’s mother, who keeps on trying to equate the loss of her own 30-year-old son to heroin with a little boy who was chasing a pet. Sometimes you want to brain her (Kidman certainly does), but she’s not a beast. Kidman also has a free-living sister (Tammy Blanchard) who has gotten pregnant after a rowdy barroom encounter, which sparks a little sibling jealousy and also judgmental feelings here and there. We also see the reactions of outsiders amid a mortifyingly personal situation, and there are also a couple scenes that deal with an intriguing sub-culture: those support-group mixers that take on a substitute life of their own, including one couple who has been attending for eight years. What Eckhart and one of the wives (Sandra Oh) end up engaging in at one of these evenings is a social taboo to behold. But as set up here, it makes a certain kind of sense.

More than one person has noted that whereas 2010 was a little on the soft side in terms of truly first-rate movies, there were also an extraordinary number of grade-A performances — too many, in fact, for a lot of deserving actors to avoid a perceived slighting. Due to its low profile and Kidman’s recent career blahs, one might have speculated that she’d fail to get her due here. Actually, she did in a way — if you go by the theatrical box office — but hopefully the home market will give her achievement some shelf life. After all, shaky marriages never go out of style.

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