I’m having some trouble deciding whether or not a film like Rabbit Hole fails to impress me because of my own prickly tastes or because the movie is simply not up to snuff. This type of thing tends to vex me. I am vexed. You see, this movie falls into the kind of category you’d find Ordinary People, which I’ve never found that compelling. I’m not talking about undeserved Best Picture winners, rather the type of films Eddie Izzard would lament consisted solely of people walking through doors, finding someone, and saying things like,
“Yes, I think you better had.” Only, without the luxury of British accents.
More specifically, I speak of films with some great tragedy and characters that spend 2 hours dealing with said tragedy. In Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play two such characters as they deal with the aftermath of their young son’s accidental death. Then I heartlessly exclaim, “That’s it?”
But am I really being heartless or do I expect my movies to have a little bit more… more… anything. The first thing I used to think was, “Well, I don’t have kids. How would I know?” But that’s not true anymore. I have two (soon-to-be-three) kids, so that can’t be it. Then I think, “Well, I’ve never had a tragic loss.” Still true, so this must be the reason. How could I possibly expect to understand and relate to a movie about grief and sorrow having never shared the same life experience?
The answer should be that the filmmaker makes me understand, makes me empathize. I don’t need to fight in a war, fall in love, or lose a loved-one to enjoy movies about the same. I believe this to be true, but I still find myself feeling a little guilty for not enjoying Rabbit Hole more. The acting is solid all around. The writing, the camerawork, the sets… all fine. The only flat-out poor elements are the subplot involving the teenager that accidentally ran over the son, and the attempt to pawn off Tammy Blanchard as Kidman’s sister (not even close).
I suppose the guilt comes from the fact that movies like this are moralizing and therefore important. But I’m a cold-hearted bastard, so I felt nothing and nobody bothered to try to make me feel more. A movie like this can overcome its genre with either mind-blowing acting (it wasn’t that great) or the director personalizing the material with their own style. The director, John Cameron Mitchell, previously made a film featuring unsimulated sex, including autofellatio (Shortbus), and his first film was a musical about a transsexual rock star with a little bit leftover (Hedwig and the Angry Inch).
Somehow, I think this “mature” step forward is a step in the wrong direction. It’s a direction without any risks, or any directorial stamp. Oh well, I guess like the grieving parents’ eventual acceptance, I too will come to terms with my indifference toward this movie.