As you’ll see, I’ve been swimming against the waves with this film, but I will say some really nice things about Rabbit Hole: I think the cinematography is really special, I think the screenplay is quite ok and, considering it was a year with better directors than the films themselves, John Cameron Mitchell’s direction is quite distinctive.
Nicole plays Becca, an intelligent, outspoken woman, who is trying to take control of her life again, months after the death of her young son. The film analyzes her relationship with her husband, with the people around her and her final steps in coming to terms with her loss. It’s not a glamorous role, nor a very complicated one. I perceived it as being quite simple on an emotional level and there is a certain honesty to the character’s emotions, with most of her feeling being on display.
There is nothing groundbreaking about Nicole playing a character trapped in uncomfortable situations, and there are a lot of those moments especially in the first part of the film. Becca doesn’t always fit in and her no-bullshit way of being often keeps her on the outside of stuff. She has her own way of dealing with her grief, or so we suspect, and she finds that the best therapy for her are the occasional conversations with the actual teenager who accidentally killed her child.
Because she’s good at playing more independent, cold characters, Nicole does great on more that one emotional aspect of Becca. Her no-excuses attitude towards her husband and her mother is believable and is acted well, but we sense that the real Becca shows up in her meaningful park conversations with the teenager. Those also happen to be the best scenes of the film: well thought, quiet scenes acted with lots of talent.
Nicole’s best acting doesn’t come from the couple’s big shouting scenes, but from her more private, quiet moments. The special relationship she forms with that boy might’ve looked strange on screen, but the chemistry of the actors and the unrushed pace really make them work, and it’s there that Nicole delivers her best acting in years.
You need to see it to understand it; Nicole really shows a different side of Becca, a more sympathetic, likeable, relatable aspect of the character. His simple, honest apologies, her instinctive curiosity to know more about him, and the kind of healing satisfaction of being in his presence – we understand all this, we believe the arc of the character just because of the gentleness, the quiet emotion, the heart of the character, the tears that Nicole allows us to see.