Oscar seers have been leery of "Rabbit Hole" because of its trouble finding a distributor, but Nicole Kidman has been getting strong buzz in the lead-actress race as a mother striving to cope with the death of her 4-year-old son.
Pete Hammond hails her performance as "brilliant" at Deadline Hollywood, adding, "This is easily her best work since winning an Oscar for 2002's 'The Hours.'"
Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. The role earned Cynthia Nixon a Tony Award in 2006 for the Broadway production, which was also nominated for best play. But there's always been a strong suspicion that "Rabbit Hole" isn't really equal to its reputation — that it is lightweight fluff that's inexplicably stumbled into respectability. There was widespread shock among New York theater wags when it won the Pulitzer Prize.
More jaws dropped when John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch") agreed to direct the screen adaptation. Many cynics doubted that even an edgy artiste like Mitchell could, well, pull a praiseworthy cinematic rabbit out of that hat, but New York Post scribe Lou Lumenick likes the "darkly funny" adaptation.
Jeff Wells (Hollywood Elsewhere) admits, "It's not half bad. A bit more than that actually. It isn't quite A-plus or A, but a solid A-minus, and it may begin to penetrate as a Best Picture contender down the road … With 10 nominations, yeah. Any film that inspires critics to clap has a shot in this game. So I think it's in there. It's a very decently made film."
However, there's a major plot complication in terms of all this Oscar buzz. "Rabbit Hole" still isn't scheduled to be released this year.
Kidman says "Rabbit Hole" first "spoke to" her in 2006 before it won the Pulitzer or Tony awards. "She remembers being in a Nashville coffee shop -– she lives in the city with her country-music star husband, Keith Urban -- getting her New York fix reading the paper when she came across a review of David Lindsay-Abaire's Broadway play," reports the L.A. Times. "She called her producing partner Per Saari, who flew from Australia to New York to see it, pronounced it great and sent her a copy of the play."
"I read it that night, and I was just floored, it just touched me in such a deep way," she tells The Times' Betsy Sharkey. "It was before it had won the Pulitzer, before the Tonys. I hadn't had (daughter) Sunday Rose yet. But there was something very palpable there, a voice that spoke to me that made me want to tell the story." It became the first production of Kidman's production company Blossom Films.
Photo: Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in "Rabbit Hole" (Blossom Films)