a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

I saw “Rabbit Hole” on Broadway as a voting member of the Drama Desk right before it closed, and was totally blown away by it. Cynthia Nixon played the lead, the central part that Nicolle Kidman is essaying so brilliantly in the movie of the same name. Heading for the Oscars? Yes, I think so.

That central part of the mother of a dead child is a stunning turn, if it is done right. I am not a big Cynthia Nixon fan, and yet, I was sooo taken with her searing portrayal of a seemingly unending, unbearable grief  at the Biltmore on Broadway, under the auspices of the Manhattan Theater Club, I VOTED for her for Best Actress when the Drama Desk Awards came up later that season. And she won! Tyne Daly also was nominated I think for her memorable turn as the grandmother of the dead child. I remember her very vividly.

So I was surprised at how wishy-washy the great Dianne Wiest is in the part in the movie that has just opened this week. Wiest is dressed down and is underplaying it like crazy. No make-up. Strange choices. Tyne Daily was a powerhouse in that role. However, wishy-washy Nicolle Kidman is not. She really is going to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for this. And she deserves it.

In a less competitive year, she could’ve won. But with Natalie Portman’s screama ballerina in play for “Black Swan.” And Annette Bening dyking it up to a fare-thee-well in “The Kids Are All Right.” I do not think Nicolle’s “Rabbit Hole” Mama is going to top either of them. But she’ll give them a run for their money.

And I think Nicolle is IN. Like the veritable Flint. However, she also HAS an Oscar and therefore, will unlikely be given one again so soon. She won not too long ago for “The Hours” playing the suicidal British author Virginia Woolf. And here again, the role that is going to take her back to the Kodak is a part dealing with death. I’ve never seen a film that deals so directly with DEATH and the grieving process as “Rabbit Hole.”

Aaron Eckhardt is also marvelous as her equally grief-stricken, but considerably more upbeat husband. But Kidman has the flashier, rangier, more surprising role. One is astonished at how well she does this. She goes to all the necessary dark places. One forgets what a good actress she really is.

Onstage, the power of David Lindsay-Abaire’s drama was overwhelming. And it won the Pulitzer Prize, the Tony AND the Drama Desk Award that year.

Transferring it to film, although it is still powerful and not at all talky, it loses some of that power. But is effective none-the-less. Choosing an extremely understated, naturalistic tone for “Rabbit Hole” the movie, director John Cameron-Mitchell has done an excellent job in what is for him, probably, a career-changer. I mean that in the best possible sense, in that “Rabbit Hole” the film shows him to have a very impressive, serious dramatic range that his other two previous films “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus” only hinted at.

So except for the under-achieving Dianne Weist, “Rabbit Hole” scores a “A” all ’round.

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