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Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart in fabulous roles

(L-R) Nicole Kidman as Becca and Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."

(L-R) Nicole Kidman as Becca and Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."

  • (L-R) Nicole Kidman as Becca and Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."
  • Nicole Kidman as Becca in "Rabbit Hole."
  • Nicole Kidman as Becca and Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."
  • Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."
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I had an editor ask for my Top 10 movies of the year. I had a deadline that required me turning it in before I had seen Black Swan, True Grit, The Fighter, and a few other movies getting some buzz.

After seeing all those films, none of them would’ve cracked the Top 10. The movie I just saw last night comes closest.

It was the powerful Rabbit Hole, produced and starring Nicole Kidman.

The story is about a couple dealing differently with their grieving, after losing a 4-year-old son eight months earlier.

Yes, Kidman will get an Oscar nomination for this role, but if Aaron Eckhart doesn’t also, I’ll be furious. I’ve always been a fan of his work, but this is easily his best performance.

He was such a weasel in the great In the Company of Men, and an even bigger one in Towelhead. I was even starting to wonder if he just has a face that makes you think he’s a jerk. That’s another reason this performance was so refreshing.

Dianne Wiest has won a few Oscars for Woody Allen movies. Well, I loved her in Parenthood and well…just about everything she’s been in. Her character in this ranks up there as one of her best performances, too.

There’s a scene where she tries to comfort Kidman by talking about her loss; another scene where they fight about religion.

Later in the movie, when Kidman is willing to listen to her – the look on Wiest’s face is perfect. The slight confusion, with a touch of anger, as she says “Well, I just don’t know what I’m allowed to say when talking to you. I don’t know what your rules are.”

I’m guessing every parent that has tried explaining something to their adult children, can relate to that.

When you do a movie about a grieving couple, it can be tough. At the San Diego Film Festival this year, there was a movie called Morning. It was easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

It’s probably tough to go down a path that isn’t riddled with clichés, but in David Lindsay-Abaire’s screenplay (taken from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play), this all seems fresh. The movie ended and I wanted to spend another two hours with these characters.

You get emotionally invested in them, and although you don’t like how Kidman’s character is behaving, anybody with half a brain should at least be able to understand it.

There’s a scene where Eckhart yells at her for deleting video of their son from his cell phone. She claims it was an accident, but from her previous actions, none of us are sure. The way that dialogue is written, the way the actors are speaking, and the direction of the scene – it’s brilliant.

When Eckhart earlier watches the videos of his son, I was reminded of Kidman’s real life ex – Tom Cruise. He watched videos of his dead son in Minority Report. And this made me wonder how much harder it is for parents these days. Aside from the things in the house that belonged to the child, you have videos (who had videos of their kids 40 years ago?). You also have a lot more photos, since there are digital cameras, cell phone cameras, computers that can save files, etc.

I also thought about Tom Cruise and wondered – since his last movie was Knight and Day – does he go and see this and realize what amazing things you can do on the big screen that don’t involve goofy stunts on motorcycles?

The movie gets a bit maudlin at times, and there are a couple of scenes I think should’ve been written differently; but that hardly dampens the experience I had with this film because every other scene was done perfectly.

For example, Eckhart plays a little Al Green hoping to get Kidman in the mood. She seems to be getting into the massage, but quickly gets angry and talks about “using Al Green to rope me into sex.”

(Note to young men out there: Women will laugh if you play Marvin Gaye or Barry White, but if you put on Al Green’s Call Me…)

Other times in the movie, Eckhart innocently kisses Kidman on the back of the neck as she prepares dinner. She subtly squirms uncomfortably.

There are lots of interesting conversations with co-workers, family, and even a support group – where you can see the other side.

Oh, I almost forgot about Oh. Sandra Oh.

The way I thought Eckhart had a weasel face, Oh has a “grieving mom” face. She’s perfect as the friendly, long-term member of the support group.

WhenOh and Eckhart smoke pot before going in one time and start giggling at an inappropriate time – the scene works so well. They're laughing at someone just a tad dramatic. And it’s not the typical over-the-top scene that (dumb) audiences love in a movie like It’s Complicated (when Steve Martin and Meryl Streep are stoned).

I always laugh when I read a critic that says, “this movie will stay with you for a long time.” Very rarely does that happen for me.

This film will. I found myself thinking about so many of the scenes as I drove home.

There was a wonderful scene where Kidman finally starts to open up to Wiest – and the way her character (who was previously shown drinking, talking about conspiracy theories, and God) tells a story that’s so moving and humorous. It involved her losing a son, and a fat woman that went to her house everyday to “be there for her.” She finally said, “All you do is come over and drink my coffee and eat all my cinnamon buns.”

It ended a friendship.

Another scene shows how much more powerful things are when done subtly. Eckhart and Kidman eating dinner after an unpleasant experience with the support group. He’s angry about some things she said, but is trying to smile and be pleasant. She’s looking at the menu while complaining about religious freaks in the support group. As he tries explaining something she quickly sets the menu down and says “Can we eat somewhere else? Nothing’s really jumping out at me here.”

How brilliant is that passive-aggressive move to put in a movie? We’ve all been on dates where something similar happened, and it’s so much more enjoyable to see a scene like that – as oppose to a couple yelling in the kitchen and breaking dishes and cursing up a storm.

This won’t be considered the feel-good movie of the year for some. It was for me, though. As crazy as that sounds, if you see it, you’ll know what I mean.

I’m giving it a B.