“Rabbit Hole” is a film about a couple who have recently lost a child in a tragic accident and are trying to figure out how to go on living. I’m not sure who the target audience is for this film. If you’ve just lost a child, I can’t imagine wanting to watch someone else go through what you’ve been through. And if you haven’t, well, what’s the appeal of watching people suffer quietly for two hours? Who picks this up at the video store and says, “hey, this looks like a fun way to spend our Friday evening?”
I’ll tell you who: fans of Nicole Kidman. And if you’re reading this review because you’re a Kidman fan, I’ll tell you right now, other reviewers will be more sympathetic. Because the further into “Rabbit Hole” I got, the more I realized that I’m really not a Nicole Kidman fan. It’s true that she is beautiful and elegant, and that there is something aristocratic about her. But she is so cold and emotionally closed off, I have an impossible time trying to relate to her on the screen, to sympathize with her and care about her. Sometimes she can use this coldness to her advantage as an actress. She was great in “The Others” as a ghost. And as much as I love Tilda Swinton, I really wish she would’ve played the White Witch in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” It would’ve been the perfect role for her. But her emotional distance has ruined movies as well: “Margot at the Wedding,” for instance, or “The Stepford Wives,” where she seemed just as robotic as the robots. And she is my least favorite part of two movies I love: “Cold Mountain” and “Moulin Rouge.” Both are great movies; both would’ve been better with somebody warmer in the lead role.
And so, while it’s understandable that Kidman’s character in “Rabbit Hole” is emotionally shut off as a result of her grief and loss, her performance, and the film, fails because it’s nearly impossible to imagine the character ever emotionally alive, warm and available. She ought to seem like a shell of her former self; instead she just seems like a shell. I know it’s cruel, but I found myself wondering, in the middle of “Rabbit Hole,” what it would be like if the boy hadn’t died. What if he had grown up with a mother this cold, perfect, and distant? He would have had issues. It could have been the portrait of a sociopath.
Aaron Eckhart turns in a much warmer performance as Kidman’s husband, who flirts with a gal (“Grey’s Anatomy’s” Sandra Oh) at their grief support group. Dianne West is excellent at Kidman’s mother, who must learn to stop relating the death of her heroin junkie son to the death of her daughter’s four year old. And in his first big movie, Miles Teller is excellent — really, the best in this all-star cast — playing the teenager who accidentally hit the little boy with his car, and is trying to figure out how to reconcile “it’s not your fault” with “you killed a little boy.” Indeed, there are a lot of admirable things about “Rabbit Hole.” But because Nicole Kidman is at the center of it, it feels chilly and miserable. It’s not a film I can recommend.