When you suffer a devastating loss, there is the pain of missing what you once had. But there is pain that goes beyond the space circumscribed by the person who is gone. Grief is its own planet and everyone who goes there lives alone.
“Rabbit Hole” begins eight months after the death of a little boy. His parents move like highly functional but very fragile zombies through their lives. Some of those around them, think and even use words like “closure” and “move on” and even “try again,” mostly out of their own discomfort at the way this loss has threatened their own sense of the rightness of the world. Others just stay away, paralyzed by their inability to think of anything to say in this most unthinkable of moments. And Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are still being confronted with horrifically painful decisions — should they keep or get rid of their child’s things? — and even more painful reminders that for others life goes on (Becca’s careless sister is pregnant).
David Lindsay-Abaire has sensitively adapted his award-winning play by to the screen and with director John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Shortbus”) has filled the story with privileged moments, beautifully performed by Nicole Kidman (Becca) and Aaron Eckhart (Howie). Both of them have to find a way to re-invent their interaction with the world or perhaps to re-invent their understanding of what world they live in. Her response is to hold everything inside, to try to maintain control. She affects an almost grotesque normality. When he comes up behind her for a hug as she is at the stove, she is bright but brittle as she shoos him away. She rolls her eyes at the support group for bereaved parents and will not return. But Howie wants to hold on to his memories and process his pain; he needs that kind of contact. He stays in the group. He keeps watching a video of their son — until Becca erases it.
They cannot reach out to each other, but each reaches out to someone else who is uniquely understanding. Howie becomes close to the leader of the bereavement group (Sandra Oh). And Becca watches and then begins to talk to the teenager who was driving the car that killed her son. It is heart-wrenching to see how he is able to reach her instincts as a mother, feelings for which she no longer has any other place.
This is a touching, insightful film with exquisite performances. If we all grieve on our own planet, it is art like this that illuminates the way home.
It doesn’t get much bigger than this. I have FIVE incredible prize packages. Each winner will receive three prizes! They are:
In an all-new, Perry-powered adventure, Phineas, Ferb, and their pet platypus (AKA Agent P) set out to thwart Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s “naughty” plot to ruin Christmas. Will they get everything wrapped up in time for Santa’s flyby?
This is the animated version with Jim Carrey as Scrooge and the three spirits and a visual sumptuousness to rival even the merriest Christmas celebration.
This Movie Mom fan favorite is already a holiday classic. When Santa loses his memory, he will need the help of an elf, a magic crystal, and of course some very special dogs to save Christmas.
For this amazing family Christmas prize package, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with Christmas in the subject line and tell me your favorite Christmas movie. Don’t forget your address! I will pick five random winners on Dec 30. Good luck!
In the early days of animation, Disney’s biggest rival was the studio run by the Fleischer brothers, whose Betty Boop, Popeye, and Out of the Inkwell cartoons were very popular. Their first feature, released in 1939, was “Gulliver’s Travels.” While it was not as innovative or successful as Disney’s “Snow White,” which came out two years earlier, it is still a charming and delightful film with comedy, romance, drama, and music. The release this week of the new Gulliver film starring Jack Black, has prompted a new DVD release of the film in An Ultimate Gulliver Collection.
In the book, Jonathan Swift’s satiric take on the political squabbles had his tiny characters fighting over the best way to crack an egg. In this version, the plans of the rulers of the adjoining kingdoms to untie their children and their lands in marriage is disrupted because of an equally silly dispute. Which of the two countries’ national anthems will play at the wedding?
“Gulliver’s Travels” is available online. I also have one copy of the new Ultimate Gulliver Collection DVD release to give away and it is truly special because it includes not only Fleischer’s Gulliver and seven more Fleischer studio cartoons but also the early anime film, “Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon” and the adorable four-minute Gulliver movie from George Melies, the magician who invented movie special effects back in the early days of the silent era. Send me an email at email@example.com with “Gulliver” in the title, and I will pick a random winner on Boxing Day (that’s December 26).
In a remake of the John Wayne classic that is truer to the Charles Portis book, the Coen brothers have made their most sincere film yet, a western as spare and yet majestic as its unspoiled landscapes. Like all great westerns, it is a meditation about the forces that shaped the American spirit, the determination, resilience, passion for justice, and most of all the mingled pragmatism and idealism.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s previous films have had a preciousness and remove from their often-grotesque characters, a frequent feeling of ironic air quotes in their picaresque speech patterns and fantastic, even mythic plot twists. This time, they give us a sincere and appreciative portrayal of a steely 14-year-old heroine (remarkable newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) who wants to find and kill the man who murdered her father.
Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a girl whose tight braids demonstrate her no-nonsense determination. She crisply negotiates the disposition of her father’s body with the undertaker and then demonstrates her mastery of horse-trading by selling back to the local broker the horses her father had come to town to buy, and, with a little extra leverage from a threatened lawsuit, getting some cash and a pony out of the deal. And so when she sets her mind to hiring the top tracker in town to find Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father, you know she is going to be successful.
That tracker is Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a man who may too old and infirm (he has an eye patch and a drinking problem) and possibly be too quick to kill (he can’t or won’t recall under oath the details of some of the men he’s killed) to do the job. It turns out someone else is looking for Chaney, a Texas Ranger named LeBoeuf (Matt Damon). The two men have no interest in working together and even less in bringing along a 14-year-old girl, but their mutual determination and stubbornness has them soon on the trail together.
The first version, directed by Henry Hathaway, was a bit of a miss-match and a more than a bit meta, with Wayne playing and playing off of his screen persona, pop singer Glen Campbell as LeBoeuf, and Kim Darby, then in her 20’s, playing Mattie. In this film, the actors are far better matched to each other and their roles. Bridges, whose most memorable role may be in the Coens’ “The Big Lebowski,” fully commits to the character, not caricature, of Rooster Cogburn. The asperity and resolve of the young girl are well matched by the man who may be undisciplined and ungovernable but who is also in his own terms honorable. It is these two, both who must continue after dire physical sacrifice, who represent the forging of a social construct that will support frontier society.
The landscape, spare, magnificent, and challenging, is stunningly photographed by the Coen brothers favorite cinematographer, Roger Deakins. Production designer Jess Gonchor makes every shot look like a painting somewhere between Thomas Eakins and Grant Wood. Each shot is meticulously framed to add a transcendent dignity and seriousness of purpose to the story.