Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch
‘Rabbit Hole’ makes successful transition from stage to film; Jesuit’s vocation memoir reissued

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the March 17, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

David Lindsay-Abaire won the Pulitzer Prize for his moving play Rabbit Hole. The new movie version, which Lindsay-Abaire adapted, in my book is better than the play. John Cameron Mitchell has beautifully directed this thoughtful story in such a way that you would not realize it once was a play.

Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) have suffered the loss of their four-year-old son, Danny, in a car accident when the child followed his dog who was chasing a ball into the street. High school student Jason (Miles Teller) was driving the car.

Becca and Howie are each in their own way struggling with the overwhelming grief. They try group therapy. But Becca becomes very angry when another couple talks about God’s plan and their child is now an angel. She pulls away from the group and tries to cope by removing reminders of their son, such as his dog and drawings. Howie grieves by watching movies of their son on his I-Phone. The couple seems to be falling apart.

Howie reaches out to Gaby (Sandra Oh) who is from group. Becca follows Jason from school and runs into him at the library and near his home. Becca and Jason begin a conversation in the park. Becca learns he is an artist doing a cartoon book. In a truly moving scene, Jason admits in a confession that he may have been traveling a little too fast, maybe a mile or two over the speed limit.

At Becca’s urging, the house is put up for sale. Becca’s Mom, Nat (Dianne Wiest) lost her son to a heroin overdose at age 30. Becca does not want her brother’s death compared to her Danny’s death. But eventually in another moving moment, she lets her Mother speak of how she has coped with the death of the older son. Nat says the grief never really goes away but the weight of it changes and it becomes like a brick in your pocket that occasionally you forget is there. You don’t like carrying the brick, but it’s what you have of your son, so you carry it around with you.

The conflicts in Rabbit Hole don’t all find a solution in a tidy package, but there is movement and there is hope. There is occasional humor and laughter in this film that enables us to grapple with the tragedy that is so intense.

The acting of Kidman and Eckhart is pitch-perfect. Dianne Wiest as always gives a powerful performance.

But it is the young actor Miles Teller as Jason that makes this movie work. Teller gives a sensitive performance of a young man carrying around guilt.

Rabbit Hole was not a financial success at the theaters. However, it will be excellent for home viewing when it is available on DVD. This is a film made for discussion. It would be ideal for a parish film group.

Rabbit Hole is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America. The rating is because of mature theme, language, and drug use. As of press time, Catholic News Service has not rated the film.

*****

John Wells, who co-created the television series ER, has written and directed the new film The Company Men. With all the people that have lost jobs in recent years you may ask why would a film focus on three very wealthy men in the Boston area who lose their jobs as their firm downsizes in an effort to be sold to a larger corporation? Well this film does and it raises the questions and issues of globalization and the loss of a manufacturing base in the United States that may well transfer to the hurt and frustration of ordinary citizens who have lost their jobs.

Hot-shot Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) arrives at work talking about his latest golf score to find out all too soon that he has lost his job as an on-the-move-up executive of the GTX Company. A confrere who has been with the company forever, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) is also let go. And Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), the second-in-command at the company, is fired by the CEO James Salinger (Spokane’s own Craig T. Nelson). So we see how three different families handle very rapid changes in their lives. New jobs, equal to what they had, are just not out there. The beautiful homes and cars and things begin to have to go. The film ends hopefully, but as much as I want to be hopeful the conclusion seems too good to be true.

The acting is topnotch. Ben Affleck continues to grow as an actor. Chris Cooper is right on as the oldest man in his 60s who falls into the deepest depression. He can’t find a job but his wife asks him to leave each day as if he is going to work and stay away until he would normally return so the neighbors won’t know what has happened. Tommy Lee Jones is always such a fine actor and he fits his part perfectly with the weathered and wrinkled face that does care about all the dismissed workers of a company he has deeply lived for. Kevin Costner has a small part as Bobby’s brother-in-law who gives Bobby a home-construction job as the family moves in with Bobby’s wife’s folks. Costner has the role spot-on and shows what a good actor he can be.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film R-Restricted because of language and sexual situations. As of press time, Catholic News Service has not rated the film.

Book Reviews

Garry Wills, who has written many books on religious issues, including the rosary, St. Paul, and St. Augustine, has written a new autobiographical book titled Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer. It is a fascinating book that touches the life of Wills and the people he met. Viking has published the book in hardcover at a list price of $25.99.

Wills has written in magazines and books for the last 50 years on many a topic taken from contemporary events and people that played major roles in those events. We ride on a bus into the South for the funeral of Martin Luther King. We participate through Wills in the division of the Vietnam War and political campaigns. And we get to know the late Bill Buckley in a new way.

Wills gives a beautiful tribute to his wife, Natalie, whom he met on an airplane flight. She warns him about getting too close to William Buckley. She said to Garry: “Be careful.” “He’s dangerous.” “He absorbs people.” Wills writes: “Her quick judgment was confirmed, over and over as I got to know Bill and his effect on others, his matchmaking, his religious proselytizing, his favors done and lives arranged.”

The author takes us to living in Baltimore and the Chicago area. Along the way we meet key people of the time, from Jesse Jackson to Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter to Beverly Sills.

Garry Wills is a superb writer. If you are interested in key people and events of the last 50 years then you will find Outside Looking In a very enjoyable and enlightening book.

*****

The 10th Anniversary edition of In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience by Jesuit Father James Martin has been recently published by Sheed & Ward. The large-sized paperback has a list price of $16.95.

Father Martin, with his 6th grade religious education background, a business degree from Wharton Business School, and years in the corporate headquarters of General Electric, enters the Jesuits, about whom he knows little or nothing. Anyone who has read Father Martin’s books before knows what an interesting writer he is.

The early part of the book focuses on family, education, and GE. For a while his mother and father do separate. The story of his time at GE is riveting. I can’t help but think that some superiors at GE would have done anything to not have this book published. From the classification of workers to bosses who seem cruel and untruthful, General Electric does not appear like a place most of us would want to work. In fairness there are several times later in the memoir that Martin wonders in the novitiate if he should have stayed at GE.

Father Martin is influenced by reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and a PBS special on Merton’s life. He calls a vocation director at nearby Fairfield University and says that he would like to join the Jesuits. From then on we go on an adventure with Martin to Africa, Jamaica, and the poor areas of Boston. As he asks questions about faith, life, and vocation we go with him. There is a wonderful section on the vow of poverty and how you live it within an institution that needs buildings and things to fulfill its ministry.

A parish book club would find this a very good selection, and of course anyone pursuing a vocation of any kind within the Church would be greatly helped by Father Martin’s life-giving journey.

Magazine Note

The New Yorker for Feb, 14 and 21, 2011, has a 28-page comprehensive article on the Church of Scientology and a conflict with writer-director Paul Haggis who after 35 years has recently left the church and spoken out publicly.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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