9 First Impressions of Nicole Kidman's Oscar-Ready TIFF Drama Rabbit Hole

I don't know where these rumors start, but no sooner had Rabbit Hole concluded its Toronto Film Festival premiere Monday night than the talk had begun: Is John Cameron Mitchell's adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning play -- featuring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as an affluent married couple grappling with the accidental death of their 4-year-old son -- worth adding to the 2010 Oscar shortlist? Honestly, I think it has more immediate concerns. A quick survey of first impressions follows the jump.

1. They definitely don't rush into the customary Expository-Dialogue Section of the Dead-Child Drama, and I can't tell you what a relief that is. In fact, you could argue that section never actually arrives, though the Antichrist-style flashback to the accident that kills Becca and Howie's son (desaturated super slow-motion; close-up exchange of glances; the extremes of intimacy, minus the sexuality) is probably a little much. It's a pretty organically developed story overall, with few clichés and plenty of subversions. You're not just sitting around waiting for the big blow-ups -- which is good, because they're a little underwhelming when they do arrive.

2. One such subversion: I love these little takedowns of group-therapy catharsis -- the backlash to "God-talk," the little eruptions of dark humor deflating the setting's clichéd entitlement to angst, pathos and self-pity. Not to bash group-therapy! It's just refreshing to see it used to wholly different dramatic/comedic effect.

3. Dianne Wiest never ceases to be a delightful, reassuring presence onscreen, especially when drunkenly talking about the cosmic influences behind the so-called Kennedy family curse. Brilliant. And of course she brings the dramatic chops as well.

4. Ohhhh, so that's supposed to be Becca's sister. Could they have chosen anyone with less of a resemblance to Nicole Kidman (Tammy Blanchard, in this case) to play her sister Izzy? Is she adopted? What happened here?

5. I know this is just a movie, but nobody speaks this low in a video arcade or this pitched in a nail salon (over pedicures!) about subjects as intimate as infidelity, child-death and/or sibling pregnancy resentment.

6. So everyone is talking about this film's distribution odds and Oscar potential, and while it is no doubt well-made, affecting and a shoo-in for theatrical release, there's just nothing... remarkable here. Would I recommend it? Sure. Would I mention it in the same breath as Black Swan or Biutiful (or earlier 2010 fest-acquisition darlings like Animal Kingdom or Winter's Bone)? I don't think I would, alas.

7. Look, I'm sorry, call this a cheap shot if you want, but there is something wildly unnerving about Kidman's face. You get used to the mask once you've spent some time with it, and at times the literal expressionlessness has a resonance. But when she breaks down, raises her sobbing head and pulls back the skin where she's clearly had her neck taken in -- seriously, it looks like her throat was slashed -- it completely takes you out of the movie. Best case scenario, she's a housewife with a cosmetic surgery jones, but that's not the character she's cultivated up to that point. This is a serious problem. The performance is fine, but it's inarguably compromised.

8. Aaron Eckhart is mostly on his game here, but he feels too pliant here -- to the whims of both his character's wife and the writer's influence. He feels like a kind of prism through which everyone is refracting their crap, which may be the idea, except the refractions aren't providing much of a spectrum. It's a few colors -- that aforementioned angst, anguish, dark humor, frigidity, curiosity -- but never vivid enough to really dazzle. He catches the light wrong. Too abstract? Ugh. Maybe I need a second impression.

9. As an audition for Mitchell to go mainstream, this is about as good as it gets. He stays out of the way, lets the script and his cast do the work, nicely develops the space in and around the couple's home and suburban neighborhood... It's tasteful work for grown-ups. Mission accomplished. Next stop: Iron Man 3!



Comments

  • stolidog says:

    You don't know what you're talking about. Nicole has NEVER had any work done. And neither has Jane Fonda or Joan Rivers for that matter.

  • Amy says:

    Oh please, get a life. Nicole Kidman delivered a brilliant performance. Do you think women who have surgery don't suffer tragedies like the loss of a child? do you think their surgery has anything to do with how they feel about the loss?
    If you are an adult think like one. She is playing a WOMAN who has a loss

  • Borrego says:

    Well...That's the first negative review of Kidman's performance I see. Every review I've read so far praise her performance as one of her very best (from
    The Hollywood Reporter to Pete Hammond to CinemaBlend). And I just saw a clip of the movie on YouTube, her face looks completely normal to me. Maybe it's just you? And yes, what you said was indeed a cheap shot. It was also very cruel, inelegant and completely unnecessary.I've noticed Kidman is the only actress receiving those kinds of attacks. Any idea why? I don't see that with Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock. All three look more plastic than Kidman these days so why no cruel attacks? I find that...interesting?

  • Amy says:

    Oh please, get a life. Nicole Kidman delivered a brilliant performance. Do you think women who have surgery don't suffer tragedies like the loss of a child? do you think their surgery has anything to do with how they feel about the loss?
    If you are an adult think like one. She is playing a WOMAN who has SUFFERED a loss, whether or not she has had surgery is irrelevant. Actresses who have not had surgeries are not able to give the performance that Kidman gave so why does it matter?
    If you meet a woman who has had surgery and suffered such a loss, would her feelings be less relevant?
    She was BRILLIANT.....end of.

  • Amy says:

    Borrego, even Mickey Rourke, who looks like his face got torn by a surgeon's scarpel does not receive the abuse that Kidman has received.
    Perhaps it is the sign that this "critic" should be ignored even dismissed. Since he is no Ebert, McCarthy, we can just wave our hand dismissively.

  • Dustin says:

    Yeah, that was a cheap shot. You're not a celebrity gossip columnist.
    Don't act like one.

  • Borrego says:

    Oh yeah, I definitely dismiss reviews like this one. A

  • Borrego says:

    I definitely dismiss reviews like this one. As soon as I read "I'm sorry call this a cheap shot if you want, but there is something wildly unnerving about Kidman’s face", I stopped reading. This need to go on and on and on about how her face bothers you is highly annoying. And as I said, downright cruel. This is very obviously not a professional review but still. This is Perez Hilton territory. Disgusting.

  • Alan says:

    If surgery has made an actress less expressive, if it affects her performance, it ought to be noted. I'm not sure how that's in any way sexist; certainly it's no more so than the Hollywood double-standard that compels women to hack themselves up to try to look younger but permits men to age naturally. Arguably, NOT making note of it makes you something of an enabler.

  • Borrego says:

    The thing is Nicole Kidman is the only actress being constantly attacked like that. It has obviously become a trend on the internet to do that. Look at this review: Mr Vanairsdale obviously has a great time going on and on and on about her face. It's not just a small mention, it's a whole paragraph! He obviously loved writing those cruel things. It's like a game.

  • vans. says:

    Do you know what is the serious problem?
    Mr Vanairsdale's stupidity.
    This is how Nicole looks now:
    http://celebrity-gossip.net/sites/default/files/imagecache/fullsize_image/images/n/nicole-kidman-091410-7.jpg

  • Cynthia says:

    Why ruin a fairly good review with a comment about how a woman looks? It's her acting we're talking about here. How shallow and disrespectful can you get. I'm so sick of so called "journalist" who think they can say anything classless and tasteless just because. It's not funny and it's not remotely clever or intelligent. What happened to good journalism? Seriously, we use to celebrate class. Now we celebrate Jersey Shore mentality.

  • Gareth says:

    Nicole is a gorgeous woman, absolutely stunning. She brings an ethereal visual dimension with her glacial beauty that enhances any film she in.

  • stolidog says:

    le sigh. trogladytes.
    i hope the meager salaries the publicists are paying "the defenders of Nicole" are worth it.

  • Triflo says:

    It's not even a review. It's a proof of someone's lack od sensitivity - point 5. Nicole's character is grieving. Is there only one type of suffering grief? Do we always do rational things in very uncommon situation? And whats even a point in 3 i 8? I won't comment part 7 on this horrible "review". It was really cheap, unnecessary and rather personal opinion. Most of the reviewers haven't notice any "problems with Kidman face" in Rabbit Hole. She getting nothing but praise. I guess it's too much for author.

  • Michelle Trotter says:

    Vanairsdale the blogger, not journalist or critic, is begging for attention. The fact that they put the most disgusting quote in bold in the inset means they want to be noticed and they want to offend. The worst review I've seen doesn't even come close to this dreck. Grow up Vanairsdale.

  • Highwayrolller says:

    This blogger is sh!t. Goodbye, Movieline.

  • Michelle Bart says:

    Yeah. I don't even care for Kidman woman but this article is exceptionally dull. VanAirsdale who? This is a career that you've dreamt for?

  • LickyDisco says:

    Geeze people, relax. It's just his opinion. You know what they say about opinions, right? That they're like assholes. Everybody has them, and they all stink. So stop acting like y'all shit roses, ST is just doing his job...

  • Borrego says:

    His job is to bash Nicole Kidman?

  • I think what he is trying to say is not so much about kidman's plastic surgery but more that her immobile face is difficult to watch. Her frozen forehead, from botox, is evident in many of her previous films. An actor needs to show expression, and she has been unable to do that. Let's hope she has read the criticisms about her forehead and stopped using botox.
    This review is spot on if you think about it.
    http://nicole-kidman-journey.blogspot.com/

  • siya M says:

    This is probably the only bad review I have seen of the film. Bless Nicole for having the balls to not only star in something as independend as this but for putting ass on the line by producing. The whole forehead thing is stupind. In the recent movies I've seen of her it moves but its severly covered in make up and CGI in the case of " The Golden Compass". The only reason this is an issue is that she is gobsmackingly beautiful, stays out of the sun, does not smoke and she is female. If you need proof of sun domage compare the areas of your body that are always covered to ones that are always in the sun. I can see the difference in my body!! So stop seeking negative attention and support independent movie making. Its a dying art.

  • KrystalK. says:

    I actually agree here, it's very distracting to see a character with what appears to be thousands of dollars of (bad) work done of her face. If the character has that kind of money (and what I would consider debilitating insecurity), it should be addressed in the script.
    We need to all stop pretending that critics who mention this are "attacking her looks." If she had a limb missing or some other startling physical characteristic that took the viewer outside of the story, it would be very carefully edited out. Angelina Jolie has multiple tattoos that are often edited out because they don't fit the character. Can you imagine her character in "The Tourist" with a giant tiger tramp stamp? Come on. Frankly, I think Kidman has ruined her career.

  • Dolores says:

    I think the reason Nicole is insulted with comments like this is because she is so beautiful. What I call a REAL movie star and a GREAT actress. If people could look like her because of botox they would. I don"t think she has had plastic surgery.

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