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Some cringe-inducing things happen in Rabbit Hole, a story about a couple who lost their young son in a car accident. But, much to its credit, the accident itself isn’t one of them. Overall, John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of a David Lindsay-Abaire play (Lindsay-Abaire also wrote the script) is much lighter than you’d expect, a sometimes startlingly honest portrayal of what day-to-day grief looks like months after a loved one has passed.
Nicole Kidman is fierce as Becca, the mother who wants to move on with her life by getting rid of everything that reminds her of her child. Angry and cutting, she has no patience for those who prefer to wallow a bit (including her husband, Howie, played by Aaron Eckhart) or who seek solace in a higher power: Becca can’t even sit politely through a group therapy meeting, instead rolling her eyes and finally blurting out to a couple who claimed that their daughter died because God needed another angel, “Then why didn’t he just make one?”
Her caustic remarks during group as well as to anyone else who dare suggest how she grieve make Becca unlikeable — yet Kidman’s strong and oh-so-subtly anguished portrayal helps you admire her guts for saying them. Though Kidman’s been getting all the Oscar talk, Eckhart turns in some stellar moments as well, particularly during an explosive scene in which Howie accuses Becca of intentionally erasing a video of their son from his phone. Also fine is Dianne Wiest as Becca’s gentle but knowing mother (she lost a son herself) who somehow remains patient whenever her daughter responds bitterly to her advice.
The script is theatrical (spare, rhythmic) while never succumbing to melodrama, vividly illustrating nearly as many approaches to grief as there are characters. None feel inauthentic.