Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Video review: "Rabbit Hole"

"Rabbit Hole" is the sort of movie that's made for video. What the studios call a "prestige" picture, it didn't get much of a theatrical release and barely cracked the $2 million threshold at the box office. But it's the sort of film that grownups will settle in to watch in the comfort of their homes, where they can appreciate its subtle charms.

Nicole Kidman deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her role as Becca, a brittle woman struggling to deal with the death of her young child. Aaron Eckhart as her husband Howie and Diane Wiest as Becca's mother, though, failed to receive the recognition from the Academy Awards they should have.

Based on the play by David Lindsay-Abaire (who also wrote the screenplay), "Rabbit Hole" is about how people internalize a tragedy, dealing in the best way they can without realizing that swallowing all that pain inevitably erodes the soul.

Becca's anger resides on the surface, as she lashes out as others as a way to rein in her guilt. Howie seems more put-together and stable, but there's a cauldron of bile underneath ready to ooze out the cracks in his facade.

Wiest is a knockout as a blue-collar church-goer struggling to comprehend the person her daughter has become. Strong supporting performances also come from Sandra Oh as the empathetic leader of a support group for grieving parents, and Miles Teller as the introspective teen whose fate becomes intertwined with Becca and Howie's.

Director John Cameron Mitchell brings a steady hand, letting his cast plumb deeply without a single moment where they play to the cameras. We feel like we're peeking in through a window on a set of real lives unfolding, and if were to step away that world would continue evolving whether we were there to witness it or not.

Video extras are the same, whether you opt for the DVD or Blu-ray edition.

Several deleted/extended scenes are included, plus a feature-length commentary track by Mitchell, Lindsay-Abaire and director of photography Frank G. DeMarco. It's a welcome feature, but in a film that relied so heavily on the performances of its actors, to not include any of them in the commentary seems odd.

Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 2.5 stars

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