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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Rabbit Hole

April 17th, 2011

Rabbit Hole - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Rabbit Hole was released in limited release in the middle of December, which just screams Oscar Bait. It did earn one Oscar nomination, as well as a Golden Globe nomination, a SAG nomination, and two Independent Spirit Award nominations, but went home empty handed each time. Likewise, it opened well at the box office earning a per theater average of more than $10,000 during its opening weekend, but the very next weekend it tried to expand and suffered. (Granted, Christmas Eve landed on a Friday, so that did have some effect as well.) It sets up a strange dichotomy when it comes to expectations.

The Movie

Rabbit Hole focuses on a married couple, Becca and Howie, who are still recovering from the death of their son, Danny, who was killed after he ran out into the street while chasing after their dog. The death of a child can be fatal to marriages, but they are working to try and get through it together. They attend grief counseling sessions with other couples in the same situation, but it is not helping Becca. She's looking to move forward, but too much of what's around her reminds her of her lost son. (This is made worse when she finds out her sister is pregnant, something she learns after she bails her sister out of jail for getting into a barroom fight with the father's ex-girlfriend.) Howie is also having a difficult time, but his coping methods are the opposite of hers. While she wants to get rid of her son's old clothing, sell the house, and move, he wants to hold onto everything. He even spends many nights watching an old tape of their son on the beach.

They start trying to work out some issues separately, which leads Becca to contact Jason, the young man who was driving the car that hit Danny. Howie continues to go to group and starts to become close with Gabby, one of the other grieving parents, after he catches her smoking a little pot before group.

It's a very simple premise that elicits amazing performances from the cast. It is arguably the best performance of Nicole Kidman's career, and she won an Oscar for The Hours. She personally choose Aaron Eckhart to be Howie, and he's up to the task. The film can be quite depressing at times; after all, this is not a subject that lends itself to humor. There are a few scenes here and there that help lighten the mode and give the audience a brief reprieve. It was also wise for the original play to be set many months after the accident, which allows the audience to see a different side of grief than we normally see. Instead of seeing the initial responses, which could have easily been histrionic wailing, the situation between Becca and Howie has moved to a more passive depression. The "Where do we go from here?" stage of grief. We also get to see a point of view that is rarely expressed in films. (In an early scene at the group session, one of the other people there says, 'God needed another angel.' to which Becca responds, 'Why didn't God just make one? Why did he need to kill your child?' Her reaction fits with that character, but it's not something you normally see. It's a subject that is usually avoided, lest anyone become offended.

It's not an easy film to watch, but it is worth it.

The Extras

The DVD extras are limited to an audio commentary track and some deleted scenes. The audio commentary track features the director, John Cameron Mitchell; the writer, David Lindsay-Abaire; and the D.P., Frank G. DeMarco. It's not a high energy track, but its tone fits the movie. There is a huge amount of information from the origins of the play, filmming with a low budget, working with the cast, etc.

I don't have the Blu-ray, so I can't compare extras or technical specs. On the one hand, it's not the kind of movie that needs to be seen in High Definition to work. On the other hand, it's only costs $20, or 33% more than the DVD, which is not a bad price to pay.

The Verdict

There are a lot of reasons to watch Rabbit Hole, including seeing what could be Nicole Kidman's best performance. The entire cast also shines in a film that could have been maudlin and emotionally manipulative, but avoided both of those pitfalls. The DVD and the Blu-ray are not loaded with extras, but the overall replay value is high enough to be worth picking up rather than just renting.


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