Easily the most gracefully performed grief-porn you'll see this season, John Cameron Mitchell's adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's play trades in the sort of tragedy that all but guarantees mountains of tissues on multiplex floors. The film initially keeps its weepie cards close to its chest: Why is Nicole Kidman's suburbanite so disturbed over those symbolically trampled flowers? And what's up with the old home videos her husband (Eckhart) watches? Slowly, it's revealed that they've suffered a loss that no amount of sympathy, squash games and Jesus-freak support groups can cure. When Kidman's benumbed character starts obsessing over a teenage boy, you fear a detour into icky-supernatural Birth territory (is he the now-grown ghost of a child? A potential lover? Or, egads, both?). The reason is simpler, yet no less traumatic.
Mitchell has proved he can do cult-courting camp (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and sexual-revolutionary salaciousness (Shortbus); now he demonstrates that he can satisfyingly play things straightforward, too. His ace in the Rabbit Hole is Kidman, who---how to say this?---has graciously returned to the world of expressive acting. That she communicates such moving, bruised humanity even when the inevitable gnashing of teeth and let-the-healing-begin histrionics commence in earnest says volumes about her skills---and the narrative limitations of such Kbler-Ross dramas overall.
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