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Toronto 2010: “Rabbit Hole,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Rabbit Hole,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

“Rabbit Hole” feels more like the adaptation of a really great play that hasn’t been botched as opposed to it feeling like a really great movie, but that isn’t to take away from what John Cameron Mitchell has achieved with his take on David Lindsay-Abaire’s drama about a couple dealing with the fallout of the death of their young child.

Adapted for the screen by Lindsay-Abaire himself, the film stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as Becca and Howie Corbett, eight months removed from the day their son Danny ran out into the street after the family’s dog and was hit by a passing car. Both have their different ways of grieving: Howie insists on going to group therapy where he befriends a fellow parent (Sandra Oh) while Becca finds her own unexpected way of coming to terms with the accident, suffocated by the ones closest to her, including her mother (Dianne Wiest) and her ne’er do well sister (Tammy Blanchard), who recently became pregnant.

Lindsay-Abaire won a Pulitzer for being delicate without being precious in depicting the pain and heartache of the Corbetts and it’s a remarkable showcase for actors, if done right. Kidman, whose finest hours have come when playing prickly protagonists, is particularly great as the passive-aggressive Becca, who has no idea where to place her anger, resulting in unpredictable outbursts at the slightest offenses. Eckhart’s Howie, meanwhile, is less moved to be the one who catches her when she falls, starting to drift away as he becomes uncertain about what his wife Becca actually wants.

Though it’s that uncertainty that drives the film — how a couple that once felt most intimate with each other suddenly feels disconnected — Mitchell has no such uncertainty as a director, providing a steady hand and an unadorned style to the proceedings. Of course, this is a departure from Mitchell’s previous films “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus,” and if anything, he provokes here by stepping back, allowing Kidman and Eckhart to go uncomfortable places; in one particularly noteworthy scene, a squabble between Becca and Howie that is often a hallmark of the third act of dramas such as these arrives mid-film and is shot nakedly by cinematographer Frank DeMarco, dropping conventional composition, as if to let the scene pass by without comment.

Somehow, Mitchell retains the raw energy of a stage performance without ever descending into a film that is always reminding its audience it began life as a play. (Some credit is likely due to the fact Mitchell apparently spent a year editing “Rabbit Hole.”) It doesn’t hinge on a revenge plot a la “In the Bedroom” or fall into the trap of turning into a shouting match between angry spouses, instead acknowledging the mystery of sorrow and letting Kidman and Eckhart play all its nuances as the process of letting go becomes a burden as great as losing a child in the first place. As a result, the drama may be less pronounced, but the emotions are no less complex, creating a film that’s quietly devastating and elegant in its understatement.

“Rabbit Hole” was picked up by Lionsgate, who will distribute later this year. It will play once more in Toronto on September 18th.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.