Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole is one of those movies that starts out about the death of a child and slowly opens up into new ideas and new realizations until it finally arrives at profound questions about the infinity of the universe, the mysteries of space and time, the complexities of happiness and the impossibility of life and death. It makes you realize just how finite and un-malleable time really is; how large and impossible life can be; how truly insignificant we are within whatever it is out there beyond the solar system that we have no concept of and that could, beyond all living logic and reason, stretch on forever and ever amen. It makes us appreciate the little, simple things that we can grasp onto and understand because, when it all comes down to it, it is all we really know in this big, complex mess of a world. What’s above the clouds and beyond the stars isn’t for us to know, which is fine; we've got our own stuff to deal with anyway.

That’s what Rabbit Hole is about. It’s about whittling the world down into manageable things in order to take steps forward, one day at a time; to find order in the mess and ultimately guide a life into, hopefully, happiness with as little destruction and suffering along the way as possible.

Oh yes, this is a movie of ideas. All true drama is. Howie (Aaron Eckhart) and Becca (Nicole Kidman) have lost their young son. Howie moves on while trying to appear as if life continues. He willingly goes to the loss groups and finds comfort in watching a video of him and his son on his Iphone.

Becca however, seems composed and yet cold, putting everything inside. She's confused but doesn’t know about what; can’t stand the pathetic people at the group; wants to rid the house of everything that reminders her of her son; and resents her mother (Diane Wiest), who also lost a son, for trying to relate to her. Her son, after all, was a 4 year old who ran out on the road while her brother was a 30 year old heroin addict who overdosed.

Soon Becca, off from work, begins following the boy who hit her son until they finally meet face-to-face and talk in the park. She finds comfort in him, realizing that he is just a boy, riddled with guilt, trying to move on. Was he going too fast that day? It hardly matters in the grand scheme. The two spark up a friendship of sorts in so much as that they feel that each is probably essential to the others recovery, or else just a way for Becca to continue to hold on as best she can. He may have taken her son but, is he really to be blamed? Is anyone?

And then the movie, without breaking it’s narrative simplicity or quiet emotional power, begins pulling back to reveal larger, more profound concepts, not just about life and death, but about the universe and the possibility that maybe there is another, alternate one where, right now, in their suffering, these people could be happy.

It’s not so much a question of Heaven, but rather a question of if this is all there is. Is life only as it appears before us? What you see is what you get? Or are there things out there, working, somewhere else out of our sight, where things are better, happier, nicer? A place where little boys can’t be taken away because they aren’t 30 year old heroin addicts? Maybe there isn’t and such thinking is just a means to grab on to any semblance of hope in order to cope with the hand you’ve been dealt. The movie doesn’t try to answer these questions. How could it? These thoughts are simply the logical extension of death, which, in a sense, gives one a whole new perspective on life.

The film was directed by John Cameron Mitchell who has done an about face from the flamboyance and excess of his first two features Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus. Here Mitchell isn’t flashy or sexy but rather stark and desolate as he allows his characters to cope with this situation on their own natural emotional terms. Sometimes humour sneaks through, but then again, why wouldn’t it, as humour seems the only natural way to cope with tragedy.

And then the film ends, as Hereafter did, with the three most profound words that can come in any work that deals with life and death: I don’t know. That is, after all, all we every really know on the subject.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Golden Globes 2011 Plus a Celebrity Connection

To all the people who spend weeks and/or months writing about awards shows in advance, making predictions, guessing who will what to whom and when and live blogging and all that jazz, well I am not for you, or you are not for me, or however Shakespeare put it. In other words, to this mind, it's kind of a waste of time. Of course awards shows are fun to watch and talk about for about five minutes after the fact, but other than that, who cares? Like year end lists, awards don't represent what the Best Movie of the year is. How could it, there is, to quote William Goldman, no such thing; simply the reflection of which movie a group of people decided they liked more than the others. But regardless, while I should really be finishing that Rabbit Hole review or working at becoming a better critic, here's my 2 cents on what happened last night:
  • Jason Segel, my favourite comedic leading man, got the biggest laugh of the red carpet when he did a rendition of Meat Loaf's I Would do Anything for Love. When a Jim Steinman musical finally happens, if ever, I vote Segel in the lead.
  • Some have praised Ricky Gervais for mocking a ridiculous institution to it's face but I don't know, his routine throughout the night felt more like simply an amplification of last year. He tried to be quicker and more offensive while forgetting to be clever or laugh-out-loud hilarious and most of his targets were easy ones. The Charlie Sheen joke was Letterman grade stuff, suggesting the Hollywood Foreign Press take bribes was funny when he did it last year and really, Robert Downey Jr. rehab jokes jumped the shark when Downey announced the best special effects category at the Oscars a couple years ago. My vote for next year: Joan Rivers.
  • Speaking of Downey, he stole the show, as expected, with a line to Gervais, ""Aside from the fact that it's been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn't you?" And then went on with an introduction that started off funny and dragged on longer than it should have. 
  • The only movie that deserved recognition, The Kids Are All Right won for best Picture - Comedy. Really, was The Tourist, Red or Burlesque better than Morning Glory, Hot Tub Time Machine or Easy A
  • Clair Danes won for her performance in Temple Grandin and it was sweet to see the real Temple sitting there with her and yet all I could think of was how William Goldman said that his academy vote will never go to "alcoholics or retards" because they are the easiest roles to play.
  • Christian Bale showed up as Charles Manson doing Jesus and yet, outside of saying "shit" on network TV, dropped some serious truth when he thanked Mark Whalberg for giving a quiet performance (the ones that no one ever recognizes) for him to give a loud one. There's something to be pondered here about the nature of acting and whether or not "award" type of performances are really great acting or not. I guess that explains why Colin Firth took it over Jesse Eisenberg.
  • David Fincher looked miserable, just adding to his reputation as being an impossible man to work with. Seeing him win reminded me of one of my favourite Fincher stores as told by Sharon Waxman in Rebels on the Backlot. When one of the Fight Club producers heard Helena Bonham Carter's line to Edward Norton "I want to have your abortion," she begged and begged Fincher to change it. Finally he agreed on the condition that he got to change it to whatever he wanted and it would have to stay. Fine she agreed, nothing could be worse. Until she heard the new line: "Best f**ck I've had since kindergarten," and she begged him to put the other one back. 
  • Al Pacino, you've won so many awards, why, all these years into your career, can you not compose a coherent acceptance speech?
  • David O. Russell didn't headbutt anybody. Guess it's good George Clooney wasn't on site.
  • Good for you Diane Warren, it's a great song even if the movie is suppose to be crap.
  • Trent Reznor won a Golden Globe. Both of us have apparently grown a lot since The Downward Spiral.
  • Dear Lea Michele: you are not attractive, you cannot act and your voice sounds like a poor man's Vanessa Hudgens. Make of that what you will. 
  • Inception didn't win anything. Good. It won't win Oscars either. It doesn't deserve them and it makes me sad to think that movies like True Grit or Rabbit Hole didn't get a nominations so that this one could. 
  • Robert De Niro's speech was a better indictment of the HFPA than anything Gervais did and his quip to Matt Damon, "I loved you in The Fighter" was hilarious. Usually de Niro is so stern. Good for him. 
  • All that said, Helena Bonham Carter made me think of Hitchcock's Vertigo in which Jimmy Stewart tries to transform a woman into a a former dead love:
Could Hena Bonham Carter actually be Edward Scissorhands in Disguise? You Decide