24 December 2010

Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

Talk about a tough sell. I was initially thrilled about Rabbit Hole because I love John Cameron Mitchell's two previous films, Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Then I heard about the subject matter and got nervous. It could have gone terribly wrong but I think it went mostly right.

I've seen this film dismissed as "grief porn." My first problem with this is that it implies that movies about grief are as hollow, perverse, and pandering as "torture porn" or actual pornography and this is not something I think is even true in bad movies about grief. Certainly there is an element in exploitation in many of the movies about grief that have popped up in recent years, particularly since In the Bedroom, and that this charge might even be leveled against a pretty good film like Ordinary People. Whatever. I personally feel that all but the cheapest of these films are valuable because they provide the purifying vicarious experience that the word "catharsis" was pretty much born to represent. I also feel though that this isn't one of the cheaper films so the term is empty regardless.

I found the picture of grief presented in this film honest enough. The performances are great. Sometimes Diane Wiest reminded me of Brenda Blethyn's somewhat campy turn in Lovely & Amazing but I liked that thing so it worked for me. Anyway, I also found her performance reminiscent of the role(s) she played in Synecdoche, NY. I guess there's something about this movie that felt like a revision of Revolutionary Road but I think it's less crass than that film. The performances are great. Everybody knows that by now. What I loved about this movie was how gently it evoked an authentic experience of grief. I don't agree with critics who have suggested that this film offers no light to the viewer. I kind of feel that anyone who feels that way has never really experienced that sort of loss. I will say that some of the plotting felt a little off, particularly some of the details of the story involving Sandra Oh. B+/A-

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