Nicole Kidman 4 Film Collection (Cold Mountain, Dogville, The Others, Rabbit Hole)DVD Reviews
Cold Mountain (2003)
Directed by: Anthony Minghella Cast: Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renée Zellweger Running Time: 2 hrs 34 mins Rating: R Due Out: April 3, 2012
PLOT: As the Civil War nears its end, a Confederate soldier (Law) makes the long journey home to reunite with the woman he loves (Kidman).
WHO'S IT FOR? Anyone who appreciates an old-fashioned romance, horrific depictions of war, or rich production values should find something to like about Cold Mountain. Though not ideal if you want a lightweight love story, it's worth watching once.
Cold Mountain is an occasionally great film, but the best word to describe it is “grueling.” Some of that feeling is appropriate, such as in the brutal opening war scene; unfortunately, more is due to it being overlong. While there are a handful of great moments, this isn’t a film I rank among my favorites.
Considering the talent involved, I’m not as high on it as I’d like to be. Much of that is due to the love story not being completely effective. Nicole Kidman and Jude Law – who are separated for much of the film – do everything they can to sell us on their undying love, but it still occasionally feels forced. Kidman’s good, but it’s Law who shines. He turns in a moving portrait of a man doing anything he can to return home, and it’s one of his best performances.
The episodic nature of the story finds Law’s Inman meeting many interesting characters, but my favorite sequence in the film is the one in which he’s provided shelter by a young widow (an exceptional Natalie Portman). These scenes capture everything I love about the film, and it’s a pity they had to end. I’m less fond of the parts showing Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) help Kidman’s Ada on her father’s farm. Zellweger won an Oscar for this role, but it’s one in which I’m never unaware that she’s acting.
You can usually count on gorgeous production values in sweeping films such as this. That’s once again true here, as they all range from good (Ann Roth and Carlo Poggioli’s costumes) to great (John Seale’s beautiful cinematography). It’s rough around the edges – just like the world it depicts – but Cold Mountain still manages to achieve much of what it’s trying to do with undeniable beauty.
MOVIE SCORE: 7/10
- Also from Lionsgate
Directed by: Lars von Trier Cast: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson Running Time: 2 hrs 57 mins Rating: R Due Out: April 3, 2012
PLOT: A young woman (Kidman) on the run from the mob finds shelter in a small Colorado town, but she soon finds out there's a price. When her past starts catching up with her, the townspeople also discover that they may have gotten more than they bargained for.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's unquestionably not for everyone – it requires patience and an open mind – but if you're willing to go with Lars von Trier's vision you may find an experience you won't soon forget.
Controversy follows Lars von Trier wherever he goes. His Hitler comments last year at Cannes caused a furor, and there was similar outrage when Dogville premiered. One can certainly see why the film would be met with accusations of anti-Americanism – especially by the time it reaches the ending montage of photos – but why stop there? If anything it seems anti-humanity. The xenophobia of the townspeople could be true of anywhere, and the film shows that anyone is capable of terrible acts. While the message may be harsh, I’m more interested in focusing on this: Dogville is a singular piece of art by a (mad) genius, and it’s a film I’ll never forget.
Even without the controversy, there would still be plenty of detractors on account of its polarizing style. It takes a little getting used to, but eventually I embraced von Trier’s minimalism (the film is shot entirely on a stage and the houses are nothing more than painted white outlines). The lack of sets helps strip everything away and simply lets us see into these people’s lives. And the people are brought to life by a tremendous cast. Everyone is fully committed (the only real weak link being Chloë Sevigny), but Nicole Kidman and Patricia Clarkson both stand out. Neither is my favorite performance, however, as that honor goes to Paul Bettany. The style doesn’t hinder him in the slightest, instead bringing out an amazingly natural performance.
This is the type of film one either loves or hates. I can’t imagine anyone looking up during the aforementioned montage of photos (accompanied by David Bowie’s “Young Americans”) and saying, “Meh, it was alright.” The style and themes aren't for everyone, but I have no hesitation in saying that Lars von Trier’s Dogville is a masterpiece.
MOVIE SCORE: 10/10
- Audio Commentary with Director Lars Von Trier and Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle
- Theatrical Trailer
The Others (2001)
Directed by: Alejandro Amenábar Cast: Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins Rating: PG-13 Due Out: April 3, 2012
PLOT: At the end of WWII, a woman and her two photosensitive children begin to experience unexplainable events after the hiring of three servants.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of old-fashioned ghost stories should love Amenábar's restrained direction that yields more real scares than any film full of effects and gore.
So many horror movies today rely on over the top violence and gore. That’s why an old-fashioned ghost story like The Others still feels refreshing over a decade after its release. It’s very effective, beautifully employing old school atmosphere and the simple power of suggestion. Featuring a fantastic lead performance and subtle direction, The Others firmly holds a spot among my very favorite horror films of the Aughts.
Nicole Kidman would go on to win an Oscar shortly after for The Hours, but 2001 is probably the best year of the actresses career. As much as I love her work in Moulin Rouge!, what she accomplishes as this overprotective mother living in a house that holds many secrets is even more impressive. Her ability to exude real terror adds a lot to the film, and in turn makes the audience share in her experience. Fionnula Flanagan also does strong work as one of the people hired to help around the mansion, but this is Kidman’s show.
Usually in haunted house movies such as this, the biggest scares come in the dark of the night. Here that’s flipped that on its head by having the most unsettling scene occur in a moment abundant with light. The film is full of stellar period craft work, but that scene really shows off the house in all its eerie glory.
A similarly old-fashioned ghost story – The Woman in Black – was released earlier this year and is comparable in the way it doles out scares. In the current landscape of effects heavy and found footage horror films, this is the type of movie I wish was made more often. Until that happens, I’m just happy to have a film like The Others to revisit whenever I need reminding how frightening a film can be.
MOVIE SCORE: 9/10
- Also from Lionsgate
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller Running Time: 1 hr 32 mins Rating: PG-13 Due Out: April 3, 2012
PLOT: Eight months after the tragic death of their four-year old son, Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) continue to struggle with overcoming the loss.
WHO'S IT FOR? Most people who like a well-acted, emotional drama that skirts cliché should embrace Rabbit Hole. The subject matter may be too difficult for some, but if you’re willing to give it a shot you’ll be rewarded with a tender, heartfelt experience.
Although he’s only directed three films, John Cameron Mitchell is one of my favorite filmmakers. Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus are both brilliant expressions of creativity that are among my favorite films of their respective years. Rabbit Hole may be a bit more conventional – there’s certainly no transgendered rock singers or unsimulated sex – but it may be the rawest of them all.
Working from a fantastic screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire (adapting his own play), Mitchell’s sensitive direction is top notch. The film never feels manipulative, but rather every moment is earned. As well written and directed as it is, a lot of credit must go to the cast. In the wrong hands these performances could have went over the top, but everyone knocks it out of the park.
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are phenomenal. Many scenes between them are hard to watch – most notably a devastating argument – but they ace them all. Kidman and Eckhart have turned in great work throughout their careers, but what they achieve here is easily among their finest. The two leads alone would be enough, but Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard and Sandra Oh all do stellar work as friends and family in Becca and Howie’s life. And I’d be remiss to not mention the work by Miles Teller, who holds his own against Kidman in the very strong scenes they share.
I’m not always as inclined to revisit films this affecting, no matter how great. This is an exception. As hard as it is to watch, it ends on a beautiful, semi-hopeful note that earns the tears just as sure as every heartbreaking moment that came before. Few dramas are as emotionally draining as Rabbit Hole. Even fewer are quite as rewarding.
MOVIE SCORE: 9/10
- Filmmakers' Commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Also from Lionsgate