Photo by Patrick Sauer
On a brisk bright February afternoon, father and baby daughter entered the Sunshine Theater on Houston Street. A planned Cobble Hill Cinemas screening of Duck Soup the month before had been canceled due to a single-digit temperature (sorry Groucho, Daddy really wanted it), so this was to be the four-month-old infant’s maiden moviegoing voyage. The Wednesday matinee was part of the Sunshine’s weekly Rattle & Reel series, where “babies are FREE!” And parents pay $13.
The usher ripped the ticket with a friendly, “Congrats on your beautiful daughter. Second floor. Elevator for your stroller is to the left.” Father and daughter bought the $8 child’s popcorn-and-soda combo (no symbolic significance, Dad just hates wasting corn), slathered it in Garlic and Parmesan salt, and headed up to theater #2. Father parked the stroller in the wheelchair-friendly back-row, put baby daughter on his lap, and munched popcorn as the lights went down for the afternoon’s movie.
Father was aware that the film, based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, was about Becca and Howie Corbett (deftly played by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), a wealthy New York City couple attempting to put their life back together eight month’s after the death of their four-year-old son, Danny. Father was unaware that Rabbit Hole is a blunt, clinical, matter-of-fact, almost inert look at what the reality of living through that nightmare would be like. Father still ate all his popcorn. Father laughed when Daughter smiled, stuck out her tongue and gurgled, even though on screen, Becca and Howie were having a knock-down drag-out over her inadvertent erasing of a favored Danny video on his smartphone.
Throughout most of Rabbit Hole, Father didn’t feel the film’s impact. The laughing, crying, bottle-suckling, and no-care-in-the-world cooing of the seven babies in attendance (not too mention the eight caregivers, especially the one who did an impromptu diaper change on the stairs, so as to not miss a key scene) kept the movie strictly in the realm of make-believe. Until it didn’t. Father hugged Daughter that much tighter when Becca was getting rid of her dead son’s toys before an impending home sale.
Rabbit Hole ended and the half-dimmed lights came up. Chatter amongst the adults seemed to prove that many people attend movies without a clue as to their content. A brutal cinematic experience levied only by the notion that the group, and their tiny companions, had endured it together. Laughs were shared at the sheer fact that a row full of babies had indeed fallen down the Rabbit Hole.
Father specifically asked the lone fellow male caregiver/filmgoer what he thought. “We thought we were going to see The Social Network, for some reason…,” said Andres from London, Dad of 6-month-old Rafa. “Rabbit Hole was OK. Not great. Though I missed the end as my son had had enough of waiting for the White Rabbit. I had to take him out and sit with the guy who had fainted during 127 Hours.”
Stroller packed up, children’s combo remnants tossed, Father and Daughter exited the theater. On the way out, Father overheard an usher say, “Showing this movie at Rattle & Reel? That’s messed up.”
Rabbit Hole mercifully over, Father and Daughter ducked into the men’s room for a quick diaper swap. That mission accomplished–even without the benefit of a changing station–Father and Daughter left the Sunshine.
Outside, the sun itself, was still shining.
Patrick J. Sauer is a freelance writer for Fast Company, ESPN, Popular Science, Smith, AOL and Huffington Post Humor. He is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the American Presidents and is featured in Mr. Beller’s anthology Lost and Found. Originally from Billings, Montana, he now lives in Brooklyn where he spends his days following his baby daughter’s orders. For more, check out patrickjsauer.com or follow him on Twitter @pjsauer.