Ugh, I scheduled this for yesterday - or so I thought, stupidly I scheduled it for the 30th of May which means I'm a day late. But, better late than never. Or, whatever.
Rabbit Hole remains as the 2010 release that I’ve seen the most, the most recent viewing this past weekend puts me at #9 viewings, which is in itself noticeable – because all that happened between December and now. Because it’s such an organic film, though, it’s difficult to single out specific scenes for analysis. That’s why that argument that occurs halfway through the film – the single moment of prolonged raised voices in the film – acts as such a great scene to assess. Lindsay-Abaire does a fine adaptation of his play, because the cinematic version rarely seems stagey even as the characters have scenes that could be staged as such.
It’s such a difficult thing to make the theme of grieving parents seem new, and it’s not that Rabbit Hole is terribly newfangled in any way. It’s the sincerity with which it’s delivered that makes it work so well.
The scene opens with Howie searching on his phone for a video of Danny. Because Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell are so focused on ensuring that the film retains that cyclical development we’ve already seen him watching the video, and we’ve seen Becca titivating with the phone – unsuccessfully. But, we’re still unprepared for what’s to come.
Before we even reach that Mitchell has already told us so much. He’s downstairs in his world, and she’s upstairs in her. The isolation of the two characters, unable to meet is one of the significant themes of the film, and those two quick shots there re-establish it
And out of her bed she goes...
Howie: “Becca, what’d you do here?”
I don’t understand the lack of enthusiasm some viewers have shown for Eckhart’s performance here. It’s not the least bit stilted, which is often a problem with grieving husbands
Becca (OS): “What?”Howie: “Goddamn it.”Becca: “What?”
If you look closely at the shot it bears a startling resemblance to a scene later in the film when Becca comes rushing out of her house to prevent an accident. It’s been months since Danny’s death, and as a prickly a personality as she tries to foster she’s still on edge, worried that something else might go wrong.
Howie: “What’d you do to my phone.”
Becca: “Jesus, Howie. I thought something had happened.”
I love Nicole’s physical response there. She’s not prepared for the emotional outburst either...
Howie: “This morning when you used it, what did you to do it?””
Becca: “Uh, well. Nothing, I just got the number for the roof guy...”
Becca: “What? You told me to call him.”
Howie: “You deleted Danny’s video.”
Look at the expressions that she goes through when she realises what’s happened.. When I was compiling my year-end awards I noted how this performance was such a surprise for me. Nicole’s strength, for me, was always in her voice but it’s her expressions that make Becca such a memorable character. Her first response is guilt, she feels badly.
Then she looks up contemplating Howie’s countenance.
It’s almost as if seeing how terribly Howie’s taking it makes her annoyed. And she refuses to relent with that mutinous look.
That look already sums up the character she’s going to show to Howie, she’s not ready to let even him in, especially him.
Becca: “No, no I didn’t. No, I – I just. You were right there. I just got the number.”
Howie: “Yeah, and you kept pressing the screen.”
Becca: “Because I couldn’t figure out how to use your phone”
Howie: “I checked already, it’s gone.”
Becca: “We have a hundred videos of him.”
Howie (OS): “That’s not the point, Becca.”
It’s a nice touch where, while Howie speaks we’re focused on Becca. She pretends as if she doesn’t care, but she knows that the point isn’t the actual photos either.
Becca: “Then, you should have put it on your computer.”
Howie: “Right, right. It was my fault.”
Becca: “I didn’t say that.”
That’s another sincere expression for her there. She’s guilty about that too.
Becca’s carrying so much grief in her which makes her come off like such a bitch, but she’s feeling the pain all the same.
Howie: “I said it’s gone!”
That’s such a brilliant transition there. Howie has all this pent up energy in him – just like his wife. And this issue of the photo brings all their problems bubbling to the forefront.
Becca: “Jesus, Howie! I didn’t do it on purpose.”
Howie: “Are you sure?”
Becca: “What does that mean? What? You think I deliberately deleted his video?”
Howie: “I don’t know.”
Becca: “You don’t know?”
That’s an important revelation there, and you get the feeling that this is argument that’s been had before – but not quite to this extent.
Howie: “It’s like you’re trying to get rid of him. I’m sorry, but that’s how it feels. Every day, something new.”
Touching on the issue of Howie and all this energy it’s nice how Mitchell has Aaron doing so much movement. The camera’s following him around as he unwinds, he doesn’t travel a great distance but that only underscores how trapped he is moving around with nowhere to go, while Becca remains static – implacable, even.
Howie: “Yeah. It’s like you’re trying to get rid of any evidence he was ever here.”
You sort of wish Becca wouldn’t hold on to her walls, and let Howie see how she really feels. Such a nice expression on Kidman, there.
Howie: “What? You took the paintings off the fridge.”
Becca: “To save them. To save them. They are in a box downstairs.”
Howie: “Okay, his clothes.”
Becca: “We don’t need all that stuff, Howie. We just don’t.”
Howie: “You wanting to sell the house. You sending Taz to your mother.”
Becca: “There’s a lot going on, the dog got underfoot.”
Howie: “Right. And he was a reminder –”
Becca: “Yes, yes, he’s a reminder. I wanted one less reminder.”
What’s great about this scene, in addition to the honesty, is how unencumbered by agendas it is. Neither is “right” or “wrong” here. They’re both so thoroughly immersed in their characters each side of the argument makes complete sense and just makes their spiral that much more devastating to watch.
Howie (overlapping): “And since you never wanted the dog.”
Becca (OS): “Oh, for god’s sake...”
Howie: “So, well if I hadn’t bought the dog Danny would still be alive.”
Becca: “If I hadn’t run back in to get the phone, if I had latched that gate –”
Howie: “I left the gate unlatched!”
What’s so weird is that is not the best scene of the film, neither is it the best scene for either Kidman or Eckhart, but it’s still excellent – proof of how great the entire film. They’re both so comfortable.
Becca: “Come on, I’m not playing this game again Howie! I’m not! It’s no one’s fault and not pl-”
Howie: “Not even the dog! Dogs chase squirrels, boys chase dogs.”
Nicole wins for best-in-show, but Eckhart is so good in this scene because he’s so different from Kidman. He’s almost like a child in how raw his emotions are which makes Becca’s stoic response her, juxtaposed with his emotion, so much overwhelming – all backed up by the physicality he brings to the performance.
Becca: “I know, that.”
It is almost as if Becca is trying to comfort him here with that I know, he's so out of control.
Howie: “He loved that dog and you got rid of it!”
Becca: “Just like I’m getting rid of the video, huh?”
Howie: “It’s not about the video, Becca. It’s not about the video, it’s not just the video. It’s about Taz, and the paintings, his clothes and everything. There’s no pictures of him around. There’s no fingerprints, and my goddamn it. You have to stop erasing him, you have to stop it.”
I let that entire portion go unfettered by my input, because I think it’s the best portion. It’s Aaron’s moment because he’s so good with his voice and body there, it’s just terrible watching the wreck he is. And, it’s so interesting watching how Becca responds. It reminds me of the argument between Frank and April Wheeler (Revolutionary Road) which I covered in another episode. Even when Becca isn’t speaking she’s showing so much.
Becca: “Do you really think that I don’t see him every second of every day?”
He can’t even look at her, it’s so distraught.
Becca: “The video was an accident, Howie, and believe me. I will beat myself up about it forever, I’m sure. Just like everything else I could have prevented.”
Howie: “That’s not what I want Becca.”
Becca: “No? Because it feels like it isn’t. It feels like I don’t feel badly enough for you. Maybe I’m not feeling enough. What do you want from me?”
It’s such an important moment for Becca. She’s still being abrasive, but she’s also showing herself so honestly. And, you can’t blame her. They’re so broken here and the way Mitchell shoots it only reinforces it. They’re almost never together in the shots, always separated.
And, Howie ponders....
Howie: “Something’s gotta change, because this –. I can’t do this like this anymore. It’s too hard. It’s too hard.”
Howie: “And I want that dog back; your mother’s making him fat. I miss the dog.
Howie: “I’m sorry but I miss him and I want him back.”
But, at the end of the day it’s about Becca and Howie leaves her expressions are just so moving.