'Rabbit Hole': Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart enter the Oscar race

Image credit: JoJo Whilden

Today brings news that Lionsgate, the distributor that released Precious last year, has bought the Nicole Kidman drama Rabbit Hole at Toronto and will release it for Oscar consideration this fall. This is great news for those of us that feel like serious adult dramas aren’t being made anymore. I saw the film, directed by John Cameron Mitchell, at its Toronto premiere on Monday night and was impressed with it. Kidman and Eckhart play a married couple struggling to deal with the recent death of their 4-year-old son. (It’s based on the play by David Lindsay-Abaire; Cynthia Nixon and John Slattery starred in the New York production.)

So can Kidman, a past Best Actress winner for The Hours, snag another nomination this year? Some of my fellow Oscar prognosticators think she’s a slam dunk. I’m not as bullish. She gives a fine performance but with the exception of one fireworks scene, it’s a fairly subdued turn. And thanks to movies like The Kids Are All Right, Blue Valentine, Black Swan, and Another Year, the Best Actress race is looking quite crowded. Kidman is certainly a contender for a nomination, just not a sure thing.

The performance in Rabbit Hole that stands out to me is Eckhart’s. He shines in the film’s comedic and dramatic moments, showing range I’ve never seen before. And he gets to rant and rave a bit more than Kidman does, which doesn’t hurt with the Academy. He’s delivered sturdy work for years (In the Company of Men, Nurse Betty, Thank You for Smoking), and I’d love to see him score his first career nomination. And fortunately, the supporting actor field isn’t nearly as dense.

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  • Entertainment2u-Twitter

    Always great to hear more from Dave Karger as we get closer to the Oscar race!

  • Levi

    Aaron Eckhart ftw!

    • Mr. Holloway

      Eckhart’s on that list of terrific actors who are working today who are overdue for an Oscar nomination.

  • Amy

    I didn’t realise that being subdued is a weakness when it comes to being nominated or that ranting and raving gets you closer. Nice to see how EW rates the Oscar on merit.

    • Mr. Holloway

      To be fair, I don’t think Dave was giving his personal opinion that a “ranting and raving” performance is more Oscar-worthy than subdued work.

      He’s trying to handicap the Oscar field and what I got from it is that Eckhart’s showier role could end up overshadowing Kidman’s more nuanced performance. By definition, “showier” garners more attention.

      • Flo

        From the reviews so far, it certainly doesn’t seem like Eckhart is overshadowing Kidman. Or garnering more attention. It’s quite the opposite actually.

        The reviewer at CinemaBlend even wrote: “Kidman is the true standout here, outmatching Eckhart scene-by-scene to the point that it’s almost a problem”.

        Same kind of reaction from RopeOfSilicon: “It’s been a while since Nicole Kidman actually impressed me in a movie and she’s never been a particular favorite of mine, but here she is a stunner. Kidman gives a real and honest performance and as a result Eckhart’s performance pales in comparison. Dianne Wiest also gives an impressive performance as Kidman’s occasionally naive, yet sympathetic mother, making both Kidman and Wiest serious lead and supporting Oscar contenders.
        Everything else aside, the best aspect of this film is the fact you are never left to wallow in Becca and Howie’s grief as much as you feel like a friend hoping they can get passed it. The only time I ever felt the film lost its legs was during a shouting match between Becca and Howie, but I felt that was more as a result of Kidman almost embarrassing Eckhart as he has a hard time keeping up.”

        And from The Hollywood Reporter (Kirk Honeycutt): “Kidman grabs the central focus of the story as the more distraught of the two. The performance is riveting because she essentially plays the entire film at two levels, the surface everyday life and then what is turning over and over again in her mind.”

    • Javabooknut

      @AMY. This is not EW or Karger’s perspective. It’s just a known fact that The Academy tends to prefer showier roles or a showier performance will overshadow a more subtle one if in the same movie. Some argue T. Cruise was great in Rainman but Hoffman hit it out of the park. I still argue claire Danes sparse performances that relied so much on facial expressions in Shopgirl was one of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen. Karger knows how the academy tends to vote. That’s where the comment comes from.

  • RyRyNYC

    Lest we not forget Meryl Streep won a nod for Devil Wears Prada for an EXTREMELY subdued performance back in 2007.

  • Zo

    Didn’t this play win the Pulitzer? Perhaps that should be added before simply stating that it was a “play”.

    • w11

      It did…and Cynthia Nixon won the Tony for her performance.

  • pop

    aaron eckhart is hot, but john slattery is hotter. i’ll totally watch this but quietly wish they’d let nixon and slattery star (who knows, maybe they didnt want to)

    • Flo

      @pop- Well if Cynthia Nixon wanted to be in this film, she should have done what Nicole Kidman did: buy the rights of the play, hire John Cameron Mitchell, hire David Lindsey-Abaire to write the screenplay, hire Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Sandra Oh, shoot the film in barely 28 days with a budget of less than $10 million, bring the film to the TIFF and find a distributor for it. Oh and give a fantastic (and apparently Oscar-worthy) performance. That’s what Kidman did. She’s the star and the executive producer of ‘Rabbit Hole’. She has worked on this film since 2006. If the film gets Oscar nominations, it will be quite an achievement for her. I hope it happens. Cynthia Nixon could have done all that. She chose to make ‘Sex and the City 2′ instead. Her loss.

      • Aaron

        I totally agree. It’s not like Cynthia Nixon didn’t have any money to go out and make the rounds like Kidman did. The woman has made gobs of money off Sex and the City, and she will be making money from syndication rights until the day she dies. Nixon is a very fine actress, but Kidman is a bravura performer too. I feel like she is always mauled in the press for her box-office “failures”, when in reality she is the most daring, audacious, and committed actress in the business…her work since her Oscar win in such films as “Dogville”, “Birth”, and “Margot at the Wedding” are nothing less than astonishing. Can you tell I’m a fan? LOL

      • w11

        Lets not beat up on Cynthia Nixon, who didn’t have Sex and the City money when Nicole Kidman purchased the rights to the play, so you can shut up with the she chose to make SATC2 sh*t. She hadn’t even filmed/been paid for the first SATC movie when Kidman bought the rights. So no, she didn’t have GOBS of money. So get your facts effin’ straight. You Kidman fanboys/girls need to realize that she isn’t the only good actress. And by the by, Kidman Bewitched, Teh stpford Wives and The Invasion, so she is NO stranger to awful, box office flops. None of those are any better than SATC 2.

      • Flo

        w11- Kidman bought the rights in 2006. Nixon starred in “Sex and the City” for 7 years (from 1998 to 2004) and it’s a well-known fact that the stars of that show had huge salaries (didn’t they get $400 000 per episode?). Not to mention the money they got from the DVD sales and all. So it makes me laugh when some people act as if “poor, little, so talented Cynthia Nixon had no chance to get that role against big, rich Nicole Kidman”. As I said she could have done what Kidman did. And yes, Kidman is no stranger to box-office flops. What’s your point? Did you just need to say something negative about her? Kidman is also no stranger to giving great performances. Maybe you should watch “To Die For”, “Moulin Rouge”, “The Others”, “Birth”, “Margot at the Wedding”, etc. Or wait for “Rabbit Hole”.

      • Erin

        Why does it have to come down to Cynthia vs Nicole? Both are great actresses, Cynthia did well in the play, Nicole did well in the film.

        And thanks for the info Flo concerning the lengths Nicole went to for this movie – I’m impressed.

  • Jason

    I saw this at TIFF and I think Nicole is beyond deserving in her best performance in years.
    I also think Eckhart was wonderful. But there is absolutely no way he can be considered a supporting actor. At all.

  • billy ray

    In the world of supporting actors, I’d like to point out that Jonah Hill did the first good acting of his life earlier this summer (Cyrus), and it was certainly one of the best performances I’ve seen all year.

  • Flo

    I really do wonder if Mr Karger would have said the same things he says here about Kidman being somehow too subdued for the Academy’s taste, being “a contender, not a slam dunk” if her name was Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett. I

    • Ben

      What’s also ironic about Karger’s statement is that Kidman won an Oscar for a subdued, nuanced performance in The Hours.

      • Javabooknut

        Yes but she had the nose. Acadamy loves “uglified” pretty actresses. It’s ridiculous but true. It is truth that the academy prefers more of a spectacle. Occasionally they don’t follow the same old same old but often due. Like giving oscars for older people, or if they think they should have won for other movies. Most will argue Scorcese got the Oscar for Departed more in place of earlier better movies because he was overdue.

  • dee123

    Completely agree Flo, I think Kidman is hard done by sometimes. How quickly we forget that Meryl Streep made She-Devil with Rosanne & Emma Thompson Made Junior with Schwarzenegger.

  • Zach

    I want to like this, but is it just me, or is this too much like 21 Grams?

    • Bryan

      Sounds like it’s just you, Zach.

  • Nick B

    I’ve always liked Nicole Kidman. It would be nice to see her get another Oscar nomination. But the Best Actress race this year is stacked. I think the only sure things at the moment are Natalie Portman and one of the women from The Kids are All Right (whoever they end up pushing as the lead). It would be nice to see Kidman get in there too, but it’s way too early to make a prediction like that.
    As for Aaron Eckhart, I haven’t seen him in too many films, but I like him. I actually thought his performance in The Dark Knight was very good, but obviously overshadowed by Heath Ledger.

    • Erin

      I thought that exact same thing whilst watching Dark Night last night. Heath was undoubtedly superb and his laudits deserved. But Eckhart did fantastically well with his role also.

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