White Rabbit

| May 8, 2015

Harlon (Nick Krause; Boyhood) has had a rough life.  At least, he thinks it’s been rough.  He has an over-domineering father (Sam Trammell; True Blood) who drinks too much and pushes Harlon and his brother to be the men he thinks they’re supposed to be.  He’s also flunking out of high school and is the target of every stereotypical bully that walks the halls.  To me, a  lot of Harlon’s problems are his own fault, which makes it difficult for me to sympathize with him as our hero.  He’s apathetic, lethargic, and all too accepting of the idea that he’s an idiot who won’t amount to anything, so it’s weird that he gets upset upon hearing he may be held back a year since he doesn’t seem to care any other time.

The defining moment of Harlon’s life is a hunting trip he takes with his father and brother after the boys get their first guns.  Harlon is forced to shoot an albino rabbit by his father even though the act of killing the harmless animal is devastating to the kid.  Throughout the film, Harlond hallucinates the bloody rabbit often, and his grasp of reality continues to crumble as the characters in his comic books start talking to him.

I was actually pretty on board with this film most of the way through.  Harlon’s a waste of a character, and his chief bully is useless, but Sam Trammell tries to bring some depth to what would normally be a 2-dimensional abusive alcoholic homophobe.  One interesting interpretation of the character is when he comes to believe that maybe Harlon is gay after he dies a patch of his hair pink.  9/10 abusive deadbeat fathers in similar movies would beat the hell out of him, but here he makes a joke out of it, perhaps unable to cope with his fears about Harlon’s sexuality.  It worked for me.  My favorite performance in the movie comes from Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland), who should be the main character.  Instead, she has woefully little screen time, but when she is in the movie she’s fantastic.  She has her own mental instabilities that complicate her and make sense for her character while not being over-explained and cliché.

The movie completely loses me in the end, which I won’t spoil in case people want to check it out.  I’m often trying to figure out the difference in film between predictability and inevitability and why the latter works so well while the former is unbelievably annoying.  Maybe inevitability is just predictability that you don’t mind.  I would actually classify White Rabbit as having inevitability rather than predictability but as recently discussed with a friend of mine over a screenplay he wrote, just because I don’t see something coming doesn’t make it a good or satisfying conclusion to the story.  The ending here has not been earned by the filmmakers, simply not syncing up with what we know about Harlon.  As if the given ending weren’t bad enough, the movie then plays with weird fantasy elements and ultimately leaves us with a vague, lazy ambiguity that for me ruins everything that was built up over the course of the movie.  I think they wanted this to get inside the audience’s head and make us think about what might have happened in the end, but at the end of the day, you have to choose an ending for your story and stick with it.

Special features include several interviews and behind the scenes featurettes, a blooper real, art gallery, and deleted scenes.  Available from Braking Glass Pictures on May 12.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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