Fresh Air Producer Ann Marie Baldonado on Rabbit Hole
Will people want to go see a film about a couple dealing with the accidental death of their 4-year-old son? That question is probably on the minds of film distributors, deciding if Rabbit Hole is worth purchasing. The film premiered last Monday with stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, and director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus) in attendance.
This may be Kidman’s best performance in years. Her pale, almost motionless face serves her well as a mom, so rattled by her grief that the only outward manifestations she can muster are perfect posture and the constant baking of pies and cakes. She waits around in her perfect house, but she doesn’t know what she is waiting for.
Meanwhile her husband, played by Eckhart, goes to work and plays squash — while still coming home every evening to watch a 20-second video of his son that is still on his iPhone.
It’s a tragedy no one wants to think about and one that seems unlikely that a parent can ever recover. But by never making us really see or experience the exact moment of tragedy, the film shows a bit of self restraint that I appreciated, especially in these ‘show everything in movies’ times (I did just see a guy cut off his own arm, after all.)
The film, based on a play that won Cynthia Nixon a Tony Award, was not as exploitatively heart wrenching as I thought it might be (another film about the death of a son at Toronto, Beautiful Boy starring Maria Bello and Michael Sheen, was more so.)
There were even surprising moment of laughter, some of them provided by supporting cast members Diane Wiest, who plays Kidman’s mom, and Sandra Oh, who plays a mom Kidman and Eckhart meet through a grieving parents support group.
A few critics have talked about this being a role that could get Kidman another Oscar nomination, but a distributor would have to buy the film and put it on a fast track to premiere in theaters before year’s end, in order for it to qualify for the next Oscar round.
Which brings me back to my first question: Would people want to see this movie? I am not sure I would want to go through the experience of watching a film like this, if I wasn’t doing it for you, dear listeners. And remember I kind of liked the film. We will see what answer those distributors come up with.
[Update: Rabbit Hole found a distributor. Lionsgate will release the film by year’s end, making it eligible for Oscar nominations.]
“Novelists think a lot about God … [because] we create whole worlds and we people them and then we tell the people what to do: we make them fall in love or fall out of windows. So there is that curiosity about God that I think all novelists have.”—Scott Spencer: Turning Orderly Lives Into Chaos
I’m surprised there’s not more reading going on. I go through massive amounts of RSS feeds from political/human interest blogs on Google reader every day for perspective, does anyone at Fresh Air regularly check any particular websites/news outlets
Constantly. We’re all searching for ideas all of the time. I should have included that under booking guests. But a lot of that involves reading everything we can get our hands on — and figuring out what will work in terms of potential guests.
i never knew that the show was live. has anyone not shown up?
Our intros and ins/outs of segments are live (so the parts of the broadcast that are not the actual interview are taped live in our studio.) The interview segments themselves are pretaped and edited — sometimes just minutes before they air. It’s more hectic here in the morning than in the afternoon.
So every morning we’re a bit stressed because our show goes on live at noon. (It airs in several markets at that time and then throughout the day in other markets.) But after 1 pm, when we’re done our daily taping, things quiet down for a bit because we’re not under deadline. (It’s not like we veg. We’re just preparing for future shows….)
What people in the office are doing right now
watching a comedy TV show to find clips for an upcoming interview
editing audio on microbes, authors and actors
Tumblr-ing / writing our web stuff
listening to music to find ideas for 30-second and 60-second music beds
From our other guest tomorrow, Dr. Jeffrey Gordon — who researches the trillions of microbes in our gut that may hold the key to fighting off diseases — and which provide us with traits we haven’t yet evolved on our own.
Ann Marie Baldonado: Oscar Shoo-Ins at the Toronto Film Festival
Oscar shoo-ins are continually mentioned at the Toronto Film Festival. Who are the shoo-ins for Oscar nominations from the films this year?
Some names that people are talking about? Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Javier Bardem in Biutiful. And Colin Firth in The King’s Speech.
The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper (of the HBO series John Adams) is based on the real story of King George VI, the father of the current Queen, Elizabeth II, who became King after his brother abdicated the throne.
The King lived with a stutter that prevented him from giving public addresses, and this inability to speak made him a very reluctant ruler. Enter speech therapist Lionel Logue, who begins to get results with the would-be king and manages to befriend him, despite the difference in their standing. Sounds exactly like the kind of film that would do well at the Oscars, huh? Well the audiences are loving this film here.
And they are not wrong. Colin Firth really does give an excellent, nuanced performance. And Firth is certainly on a roll, since he was nominated last year for his work in A Single Man, which was purchased here in Toronto last year by the Weinstein Company. Geoffrey Rush may also get a nod, for his turn as the therapist.
Speaking in a Q & A after one of the screenings, Firth, Rush, and director Tom Hooper, attribute the on-screen chemistry between the two actors to the three week preparation period they had before filming began. Apparently, such prep time is rare.
That prep will probably pay off the beginning of 2011, when those Oscar nominations are announced.
Ann Marie Baldonado: Day 3 at the Toronto Film Festival
From left to right: author and adventurer Aron Ralston, actor Clemence Poesy, Actor Kate Mara, Actor James Franco, Actor Amber Tamblyn, Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, Director Danny Boyle
Yesterday, hundreds of press and industry folks waited hours to see a guy cut off his own arm. Sure, the real life story of Aron Ralston — a young man whose gets stranded in a Utah canyon for 5 days when his hand gets stuck underneath a boulder — is certainly compelling. But I think it is safe to say that the reason people waited was because 127 Hours is the work of director Danny Boyle, a Toronto favorite who showed Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire here two years ago. Also at the screening — perhaps the busiest man in film or anywhere — actor/director/writer/artist James Franco (I mean, the guy is about to start two graduate programs after just finishing two. Come on now.) Thankfully for those of us who waited, Boyle and Franco didn’t disappoint.
It’s not suprising that Boyle managed to not turn this into a TV movie, although this tale could certainly be TV movie fodder. Both Boyle and Franco used the actual tapes that Ralston made during those 5 days to prepare for the film. And their attention to little details (the way Rolston placed the few items of his backpack neatly out onto the boulder, portioned out the little water he had in his Nalgene, and carefully contemplated his attempts at escape…) created a sort of authenticity that the film needed in order to be successful. Franco’s great one-man performance, along with the use of flashbacks that get dreamier as the hours pass on, give a lot of movement to a story that is essentially about a guy standing still, talking to himself, trying to keep himself alive.
The real life Aron Ralston is here in support of the film, and is just as compelling in real life as his fictitious counterpart. 127 Hours is scheduled to hit theaters later this year — and James Franco will be on Fresh Air later this month to discuss his role in the film.