Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

JoJo Whilden/Lionsgate

Review in a Hurry: Go down the Rabbit Hole with the Corbetts (Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart) as they cope with the death of their young child. Not as wrist-slitting as that sounds, this searing family portrait is honest, humorous at times and worthy of kudos for Kidman and the cast.

The Bigger Picture: There's nothing like black wit to lighten and even illuminate the darkest of subject matters. Case in point: This adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, directed with a deft and delicate touch by John Cameron Mitchell.

Suburban couple Howie (Eckhart) and Becca Corbett (Kidman) are returning to their everyday lives in the wake of a sudden, tragic loss. Eight months earlier, their 4-year-old son, Danny, was killed by a car when he ran into the street.

The two are emotional polar opposites who grieve and heal in vastly different ways. Howie clings to memories and tries to save his marriage through group therapy. Becca, however, remains guarded, rids their home of reminders (Danny's clothes, drawings, etc), and resists her hubby's romantic overtures.

So Howie shares a flirtation and a few joints with another woman (Sandra Oh), while Becca seeks a connection with the teenager (Miles Teller) involved in the fatal car accident.

Rabbit hops around the traps of sentimentality and maudlin clichés to create a realistic portrayal of grief and explosive family dynamics. The film, which never feels stagy despite the source material, relieves the tension with funny, biting observations, especially about therapy.

Kidman gives her most powerful performance in years, and those who would accuse of her being frigid onscreen most likely aren't paying attention. Yes, her character is distant, sometimes unlikable, but the actress gives glimpses at the raw nerves and turbulent emotions right below the tightly controlled surface.

The stellar cast includes Dianne Wiest, ditsy and heartbreaking as Becca's mom, who desperately wants to ease her daughter's pain but only frustrates her more.

Plus, you gotta love any flick that features Oh smoking dope while listening to David Soul's "Don't Give Up On Us." Priceless.

The 180—a Second Opinion: If you're wanting to escape your own holiday drama with the relatives, this probably isn't the feel-good fluff you're looking for.

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