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The Beaver - Movie Review

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The Beaver - Movie Review

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3 Stars

It’s unfortunate that Mel Gibson gives what many will hail as the performance of his career inside Jodie Foster’s grossly uneven handling of The Beaver.  The film is a disturbing look at adult depression and the consequences therein for one beyond damaged family, yet it tries – unsuccessfully – to insert standard Hollywood convention inside a bitterly dark blackest of black comedies.  Thing is depression – at least the level of depression this film introduces that leads a man to stick his hand up a puppet’s ass 24 hours a day seven days a week  – is no laughing matter, not even here.

Walter Black is depressed.  He’s a sad, lifeless sack full of booze, pills, and shit and he oozes nothing but stains from whence he lies.  Finally, kicked out of the house by his wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster, who we wish was a more fully realized character than she actually is in the story), and despised by his eldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin, who gives a memorable performance as a son who plots out via post-its how not to become like his father), Walter, rather inexplicably, finds a discarded beaver puppet and discovers a new life that awaits him as he begins to talk to people again – through the puppet.  The question is how much of the puppet can the family take as Walter tries to heal the wounds of time and of his soul; wounds he confesses – several times – can never be repaired.

Originally filmed in the fall of 2009, The Beaver has been a long time coming, yet Foster’s handling of Kyle Killen’s script is too muted to carry the weight of its topic.  The camera lingers and rests and carries a rather ordinary covering throughout never sparking with her typical cinematic flair.  If this is Gibson’s confessional, where’s Foster’s input behind the camera?  Seen onscreen, you know she’s a woman with something to say – yet her presence behind the camera goes largely unnoticed.

The commitment Gibson has to the role of Walter is to be commended.  It certainly is a chore to be so loathsome and likable throughout (even as he drunkenly tries to hang himself from a shower rod by his tie) and then try to recapture some sympathy from the audience through the voice of the beaver.  Yet, the film wobbles in its own commitment to the handling of the manic-depressive subject; the quirk factor of say a director like Alexander Payne or Wes Anderson could seriously do wonders for this rather conventionally plotted drama that cannot and does not prepare you for the dark territories it eventually takes Walter on his recovery.

With a standout performance from Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), The Beaver certainly has its fair share of trophies. Ironically enough, the unfortunate verisimilitude of Gibson’s off-screen persona is certainly one reason the film engages the audience.  He works his ass off to get the tone of Black and his journey just right.  After all, the sympathy garnered from the audience could save him in the public eye and if you think he doesn’t care what you think about him – watch this movie closely.  It’s obvious he does.

He really, really does.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Beaver - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, some disturbing content, sexuality and language including a drug reference.
Director: Jodie Foster
Writer
: Kyle Killen
Cast: Mel Gibson; Cherry Jones; Jodie Foster; Anton Yelchin; Riley Thomas Stewart; Jennifer Lawrence
Genre: Drama
Memorable Movie Quote: "He's not gone honey. We've just agreed it's better if we don't live together anymore."
Tagline:
He's here to save Walter's life.
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Official Site:
www.thebeaver-movie.com
Release Date: May 5, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Plot Synopsis: Two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with two-time Academy Award winner Mel Gibson in The Beaver – an emotional story about a man on a journey to re-discover his family and re-start his life.

Plagued by his own demons, Walter Black was once a successful toy executive and family man who now suffers from depression. No matter what he tries, Walter can't seem to get himself back on track... until a beaver hand puppet enters his life.

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