John Cameron Mitchell goes down ‘Rabbit Hole’

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imageAnyone holding their breath that John Cameron Mitchell’s new project would be a revisit of “Hedwig”—or even “Short Bus”—has to dream on. Instead, the gay director helms the fine drama “Rabbit Hole.”

Family grief isn’t the sexiest of themes for a holiday movie, and other than Mitchell, there’s nothing remotely gay about “Rabbit Hole,” but under his direction, it’s impressive stuff. The film opens in Atlanta on Saturday at the Regal Tara.

Becca (Nicole Kidman, top photo left) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart, right) are a couple who lost their little boy when he chased his dog out into the street and got hit by a car. Now eight months later, they are in different degrees of grief—and not getting what they need from each other. Becca decides to meet Jason (Miles Teller, second photo, far left), the young man who drove the ill-fated car, and Howie starts hanging out with Gabby (Sandra Oh), a married woman attending his support group, and comes home at night reeking of pot.

Making matters worse is the discovery that Becca’s carefree sister (Tammy Blanchard, second photo second from left, who played young Judy Garland in “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows”) is now pregnant.

image“Rabbit Hole” is based on the Pulitzer-winning play that also won a Tony Award for out actress Cynthia Nixon (which means, of course, that the big screen role will go to someone else) and was performed locally at Marietta’s Theatre in the Square a few seasons back. It’s adapted for the screen faithfully by David Lindsay-Abaire, who takes what could be awfully heavy material and balances it.

He and Mitchell (second photo, center) owe a lot of the success of the film to the ensemble. The bulk of the acclaim goes rightfully to Kidman, doing a beautiful job as the wound-tight Becca. She dares to make Becca unlikable at times. An episode at a support group where her rage comes out is droll, but oh so dark. As Becca’s mother who has experienced her own loss, Dianne Wiest does her usual bit of scene-stealing. She’s compassionate and matter-of-fact in her portrayal.

Eckhart is the big surprise here, holding his own with the others. In the play, his story is somewhat secondary to Becca’s, but that’s not necessarily the case here. And of course, the actor is as hot as ever.

Taking a break from her “Grey’s Anatomy” scrubs, Oh is flat-out marvelous as Gabby. She and Eckhart bring the film some humor at times when it could be weighed down by the subject matter. Another terrific performance is by Teller, whose Jason forms a believable relationship with Becca as he comes to grips with what has happened himself.

“Rabbit Hole” couldn’t be further removed from “Hedwig’s” operatic moments or “Shortbus’” orgies and gender exploration. Some folks may be miffed that Mitchell has turned mainstream with this, but a lot more will be moved by the production.

The film is clearly personal to the director, as he lost his younger brother many years ago. Mitchell has said that he feels the best direction is unnoticed. In that case, he does a wonderful job. The film and its performances speak eloquently for themselves.

“Rabbit Hole” opens Christmas Day at Regal Tara Cinemas.

imageJim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He has been a theater and pop-culture critic for more than a dozen years and is the director of Atlanta’s annual Out On Film gay and lesbian film festival.

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