Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thumbs Up for Going Down the "Rabbit Hole"

Last night Bart and I went and saw the movie Rabbit Hole. We had been waiting for some time for its release. It's a film version of a play we saw at Goodman Theatre. Needless to say, we really enjoyed the play.

It's a tale of a couple coping with the loss of their only child (a 4 year old son) and their interactions with family - as well as the young man who accidentally killed him by car. Yes, it's very sorrowful. But well told and very powerful.

Part of the reason we'd been interested in the movie is that it has been championed by and stars Nicole Kidman. If you don't already know, she is my favoritre actress. She astounds me in every performance to the point of not really believing it is her. And I love her normal, off-camera wackiness. But enough about Kidman. :)

Another reason to see the movie is that the author David Lindsay-Abaire adapted his own stage show for the screen. Usually that's a bonus. And in this case it certainly is. Lindsay-Abaire managed to pull off the proverbial "open it up" for the big screen extremely well. Goodman's production played in 2007, so it has been a while since we saw it. But the impact has not diminished. The truth is that the movie is very different from the play. It has additional characters, added scenes and other locations... all par for the course for the "open it up" of course. But other than that, it is a new version. But a very excellent new version - for all the key scenes are still intact. They're just altered slightly. For instance, at one point in the play a video tape is erased. In the film, it becomes a smart phone video. And it works. All of the changes do.
Also quite gratifying is that some of the "new" scenes come from the play in some way. For example, in the play Becca (the mother/wife) comes in and has a monologue about an encounter with a woman at the supermarket. The play, as is often the case with theatre, has a static set of their home. No part of the stage is used to represent other locales with quick fly on pieces or the like. And so... in the film version Lindsay-Abaire is able to take us TO the supermarket and bring the scene to life other than words.

The scenes and changes that are fresh to the script are just that - fresh. The minor restructuring is welcome and sensible. I am tempted to say I liked them better.  But that's a hard call.  Both ways are just as compelling.

Yet as I said, the movie does indeed have all the key elements and scenes from the play.

In regard to the film itself, it's excellent.  All the performances are top notch.  Besides Kidman's usual nailing it (in my opinion) there's fabulously poignant acting from Aaron Eckhart, Miles Teller, Dianne Wiest, Sandra Oh and Tammy Blancard.  That is not to belittle the performances of the rest of the cast, I'm just mentioning the major players.  And a special nod to Sandra Oh, since she brought us a new and wonderful character.  It's also well filmed and Bart noticed effective artistic choices such as the color palate.  One noteable difference is that the play had been much darker.  Not that the film didn't deliver the tear-jerking moments, but it did have a peppering of light humor to break the otherwise looming sadness and tension.  And, like all the other reworking, it came off beautifully.

So... BRAVO to David Lindsay-Abaire for his ability to revisit his work and create such a magnificent new take on it.  That's quite an achievement and I give him a ton of credit.  I'd probably fall to pieces when faced with that challenge.  But that might have something to do with the fact that I (personally) believe I am terrible at writing plays in the first place.

If emotionally charged tales are your thing, you don't want to miss going into this Rabbit Hole.

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