Nicole Kidman's 'Rabbit Hole' could severely change the Oscar equation
'The Hours' winner, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest would all be major category players
Is your studio lacking a legitimate best picture candidate this year? Are you feeling depressed from looking on the outside in this awards season? Are you nervous that your hyped best picture contender really isn't up to snuff? Do you have an expert creative and publicity team salivating to put their talents to the test? Well, have I got a movie for you. It's called "Rabbit Hole," and it was written by Pulitzer prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (from his original play) and was directed by none other than "Hedwig and the Angry Inch's" John Cameron Mitchell. Plus, it stars Oscar winners Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest and everyone's favorite Two Face, Aaron Eckhart. And ladies and gentleman, it's got potential to turn your Oscar season around!
No, "Rabbit Hole" doesn't need a showman's hard sell to get the attention of distributors, that's already occurred. The question is whether the moving drama will find a suitor who can ride some strong critical buzz to a likely party crasher in only a few short months. Perhaps it was Mitchell's previous energetic work or the subject matter of a couple trying to deal with the death of their son, but "Hole" wasn't treated that seriously by many observers before Toronto began. That was clearly a mistake.
Mitchell and Lindsay-Abaire, who made significant changes to his own play, have crafted a quiet, understated work that is an impressive showcase for the entire acting ensemble. Kidman, with forehead wrinkles thankfully relieved of botox, is Becca, a suburban rich housewife who is on a completely different wavelength than her husband Howie (Eckhart) in how to deal with the death of their son only eight months before. The couple are almost shut ins from their former friends and family as it seems everything around them reminds of them of their little boy. Perhaps looking for closure and unbeknownst to her husband, Kidman befriends the young man whose car hit her son after he ran aimlessly after their dog into the road (a relatively unknown, but startling Miles Teller). Meanwhile, Howie has found a kindred spirt in another parent experiencing loss in a local support group played by Sandra Oh (finally stepping out again from the "Grey's Anatomy" crush), but is holding in an angry raging about just how to move forward with his life. Complicating matters is Becca's less cultured sister (a fine Tammy Blanchard) who has just gotten pregnant out of wedlock and their working class mother (Dianne Wiest) who hides her own pain of an older son lost and Becca's constant embarrassment of her.
Wiest hasn't been this good on the big screen in over a decade (although, to be fair, she won an Emmy in 2008 for "In Treatment" so she's been doing good work somewhere) and her delicate scenes with Kidman are artfully choreographed by Mitchell. Eckhart can be hit or miss, but he's on his game this time around bringing a grounded realism against Kidman who is in prim and proper form most of the time. As for "The Hours" star, for a good chunk of the first two acts, it seems as though Kidman is delivering the icy cold and stiff persona we've seen her sleepwalk through so many times before. Then, first in a scene with Eckhart and later in a devastating moment alone, Becca completely breaks down and Kidman removes a wall of a emotion that she's often kept in-between herself and the audience. It's a visceral Kidman we've rarely been allowed to see.
High praise also has to go to Lindsay-Abaire for not being precious with his source material. In the awards game, those four along with the picture have the best shots for nominations. Kidman for best actress, Eckhart for best actor, Wiest almost a lock in a shallow pool of best supporting actress contenders and LIndsay-Abaire for best adapted screenplay. Mitchell, on the other hand, completely confounds critics and the industry by delivering a work unlike any he's even hinted at before. If he doesn't get some recognition for his work along the way it would be a serious, serious shame. But knowing how competitive best director can be, there's a gut feeling he'd be the odd man out.
So, who will jump down the "Rabbit Hole" for a late season plunge? That remains to be seen, but the sooner moviegoers are allowed to enjoy this powerful film the better.
[Update - Thursday, 3 PM PST: Lionsgate has acquired domestic rights to "Rabbit Hole" and will release it before the end of the year for awards consideration. Considering the studio behind "Crash" and "Precious" didn't have a legit player this year, it's good news for the "Hole" team. And moviegoers too. Plus, knowing Lionsgate, it will have a really nice poster.]