With a title metaphorically hinting at a phrase from Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, Rabbit Hole’s Becca Corbett (Nicole Kidman [ Images ]) skirts several stages of Kübler-Ross principle to arrive uninterruptedly at the last.
She accepts mortality and the fact that her four-year-old had been killed. Throughout she tries hard, very hard to deal with the loss.
As a matter of fact, the plot doesn’t concern the tragedy itself as much as its aftermath which shatters and disintegrates the Corbetts, a middle-class suburban couple who find themselves in difficult situations they never expected could touch their easy lives.
Rabbit Hole stays away from maudlin situations that could have so naturally arisen from a tragic event such as death. It does retain the shock, the shaken feelings and constantly juxtaposes it with the sentiments of ‘moving on’, that no matter how painful a situation is, time marches on and so should you.
In a scene that embodies, in part, some of the film’s central ideas, Becca’s mother advises her that grief is like a brick, “At some point, it (pain) becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and… carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is.”
Director John Cameron Mitchell takes his characters deep into an emotional abyss, the last point of human suffering and sets them against one another.
For instance, while Becca gets into a mysterious connection with her son Danny’s killer, her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart) develops a rather playful bond with a fellow griever at a group therapy session.
In that sense, Rabbit Hole is not puerile, it is rather tasteful and restrained, especially in terms of its characterisation. Kidman pumps dignity into Becca. It’s a singular act, unforgettable and well-poised, that in a way characterises Rabbit Hole.
In films attempted in the past on similar themes, ranging from Robert Redford’s extraordinary drama Ordinary People to the strictly ordinary Reservation Road, you’ll notice that they aren’t driven by a single performance; instead, it’s the film in toto.
In the case of Rabbit Hole, Kidman owns it, single-handedly. Her foibles are visible, her pain is deep and she’s constantly struggling between the world inside her and the one outside, in which there are various relationships to maintain and nurture. She does not resort or depends on loud display of bitter weeping, howling or rage. She remains understated and effective.
There aren’t too many plot turns and twists, either. Mitchell keeps it straight and concentrates on how the characters would react instead of how the story would react. It, indeed, helps to have the screenplay based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
Kidman, also a producer on Rabbit Hole, somewhere mentioned that it’s a film with a message — that walking through something you think unbearable is possible. It wouldn’t be wrong to say she makes it look utterly possible.