One of the pleasant surprises in Tuesday’s Oscar nominations was the inclusion of Nicole Kidman in the best actress category for her work in “Rabbit Hole.” After a limited run, the film opens this weekend in Bowling Green, giving audiences a chance to see Kidman’s powerhouse performance in this engaging drama.

Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play Becca and Howie, a married couple trying to cope with the death of their 4-year-old son, Danny, eight months earlier.

Howie seeks comfort in support groups and clinging to memories, while Becca has a more cynical and introverted way of dealing with her feelings.

When Becca’s younger sister announces she is pregnant, it only accentuates Becca’s loss, adding to her pain. Becca finds comfort in a young comic book artist named Jason (Miles Teller), who helps Becca see the good in her tragic loss.

This is a film with strength that stems from how authentic it feels. “Rabbit Hole” effectively captures loss and grief from different angles and perspectives, yet manages to be uplifting as well.

Kidman is riveting here, perfectly capturing the pain and anger of her character. The dynamic between Kidman and Dianne Weist - who plays Becca’s mother, a woman still struggling with the death of Becca’s brother to a drug overdose - adds another layer to the story that accentuates the pain and anguish.

Eckhart has some good moments as well, especially a confrontation with Becca that is pretty powerful.

Jason’s connection to the accident proves to be one of the movie’s biggest surprises and most emotional moments.

Adapted from a play by David Lindsay-Abaire, “Rabbit Hole” was directed by John Cameron Mitchell (the man behind “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”). At first Mitchell may not seem like the right choice to direct, but his experience with adapting from stage to screen proves valuable here - expanding this story without losing its power and emotion.

Of course it helps to have a great actress like Kidman be the centerpiece of your film. She’s as good as she’s ever been here - anchoring this tough, but ultimately satisfying drama.

Also in theaters

If you are looking for lighter fare, then there is the new romantic comedy “No Strings Attached” (C-), a mildly interesting diversion that is never more than a catchy gimmick in search of a complete story.

Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher play Emma and Adam, a girl and a guy who agree to become friends with benefits.

That slowly changes, especially for Adam, but Emma is reluctant to make the relationship anything but physical - putting a strain on the arrangement and the growing friendship.

There is so much talent at work here, “No Strings Attached” can’t help but be at least mildly entertaining. Director Ivan Reitman is able to milk some moments out of his supporting cast, which includes Kevin Kline, Cary Elwes, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Olivia Thirlby and Mindy Kaling.

The best moments come with Portman and her gal pals. Their discussions about sex and relationships feel frank and fresh.

That’s not the case with Kutcher and his friends (including rapper Ludacris). Those moments feel familiar and bring the film to a grinding halt.

If Portman’s character had been the centerpiece of the film, instead of Kutcher’s, it might have worked. Her character always seems smarter than the material and one step ahead of the script, making me wonder how good she could have been with a screenplay that tries to be something different, instead of one that manages to fall into every romantic comedy trap possible.

To its credit, “No Strings Attached” is better than most of the romantic comedies released in the last few years (infinitely better than the Kristen Bell and Katherine Heigl vehicles that seem to hit theaters at an alarming pace); however, it’s just never quite as good as it aspires to be.

“No Strings Attached” is rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material, and is now playing at the Great Escape 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.

— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also e-mail him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.

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