If you’re looking for off kilter cinema, then I’ve got the review for you. Jodie Foster directs herself and Mel Gibson in The Beaver, a small drama about a damaged man. See what I thought of this movie you might have missed right after the jump.
Walter Black is extremely depressed. So much so that he’s alienated his entire family and almost driven the business for which he is CEO into the ground. His wife has finally had enough, and begrudgingly tosses him out. Walter stops to do what most men would do, buy booze, and along the way finds a beaver hand puppet in a dumpster. Walter drinks himself into oblivion in his motel room and attempts suicide, but is interrupted by our titular character, The Beaver. The Beaver speaks with a cockney accent and vows to turn Walter’s life around. The Beaver now speaks for Walter almost all of the time and helps the man get things back on track. With his new found support, Walter enters back into life.
The Beaver is pretty absurd. It reminded me all at once of Lars and The Real Girl, except…not as good. That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its merits. I did enjoy The Beaver, it’s just the whole premise that really makes you cringe. I’m sure depression can lead you into some deep shit, and I’m sure projecting your life through an accented hand puppet is possibly one of those things. But, it’s still something to pause at. The plot itself moves along well and it is a decent story to be told. But every time you’re pulled into believing the story, you see that damn beaver. And The Beaver isn’t a comedy at all—it’s a straight forward drama. So the dichotomy of the seriousness presented by the subject matter and the absurdity of the main plot point keep this movie from being what it could have been.
The driving force behind this movie is Mel Gibson’s honestly great performance as Walter Black and The Beaver. Regardless of his life off screen, Gibson should be remembered as an outstanding actor—and here he displays his talents. Jodi Foster as Black’s loving, but challenged, wife also turns in a well mannered performance, but I think her direction is the real thing to praise here. Other big names include Anton Yelchin as Black’s hateful son Porter and new marquee name Jennifer Lawrence as his love interest. The two youngsters do alright with what they’re given, but it’s not their movie. Though, the subplot involving the two could’ve been made into its own film with some fleshing out.
Overall The Beaver is buoyed by its strong performances and Foster’s direction. The execution is there, but the film’s setup, premise, and main point of focus are all a little eyebrow raising. If you can suspend your disbelief for 90 minutes, you can probably enjoy this movie for what it is. I was almost there, but still found myself decrying the puppet.