Monday, February 14, 2011

Week of February 11 to February 17

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Another movie with Academy Award props opens this week, RABBIT HOLE. The title is an Alice in Wonderland allusion to what happens when you suddenly pass from one world to another. But in this case the passage is the profoundly tragic one of a couple that is thrust from the bright happiness of a suburban existence as parents of a four-year-old, into a bewildering gloom when their son is suddenly killed. No one is at fault; he ran into the street chasing his dog. The event is eight months in the past, so the couple has had time grieve, but the wound is still fresh.

Director John Cameron Mitchell, best known for his brash, sexually charged movies Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch faced a new challenge when he took up the emotionally fraught theme of the death of child. Great movies have surmounted it: Ordinary People, In the Bedroom, Sophie’s Choice. So has Mr. Mitchell, with the help of David Lindsay-Abaire, who adapted his successful Broadway play, and the parent couple of Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckard, especially Kidman with an Oscar and Golden Globe nominated performance.

The movie is not easy viewing, but it’s less a downer than a chance observe something we’d rather not experience first-hand. As critics note, “Rabbit Hole is entertaining and surprisingly amusing, under the circumstances” (Roger Ebert); “"Grief may be the topic under examination, but humor -- incisive, observant and warm -- is the tool with which it's dissected in Rabbit Hole." (Variety).

The strong performance of the Tropic’s other award nominees continues, so THE KING’S SPEECH, TRUE GRIT, BLUE VALENTINE and INSIDE JOB are held over for another week. I urge you to catch the ones you’ve missed. It’s especially interesting to compare Michelle Williams performance in Blue Valentine with that of Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, both instances of Best Female Actor nominations in movies with tough themes.

On Wednesday evening, the Tropic’s Opera in Cinema series presents something different, not a stage production but a version of the classic RIGOLETTO filmed at locations around the city of Mantua by Marco Bellocchio (writer-director of the Mussolini biopic Vincere). With Placido Domingo as Rigoletto and Zubin Mehta conducting the opera, this will be a star-studded event.

The Monday night classic series is continuing its sold-out run with John Sayles BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET. Joe Morton, the “brother”, is an alien man of color who crash lands in New York while escaping from evil bounty hunters (two “Men in Black” played by John Sayles and David Strathairn). He looks normal, has some supernatural powers, but lacks the power of speech. His adventures in Harlem, and the reactions of others, make this Sayles’ most creative, and most comic social satire.

Full info and schedules at or save yourself some keystrokes with
Comments, please, to

No comments: