Rental Pick: The Beaver

The Beaver

A troubled husband and executive adopts a beaver hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.

I’ve been curious about this one mostly to see Mel Gibson’s performance and because the script apparently topped 2008’s The Black List (as in list of Best Un-produced Screenplays). I also wanted to see it because Anton Yelchin, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing last month, had a role as Gibson’s son.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you might be inclined think that it’s a comedy, but truth be told, the subject matter of suicidal depression is no laughing matter. ‘Walter Black is a man who’s lost all hope…‘ the voice over says, and given all the troubles in Gibson’s personal life, it seems like art imitating life or vice versa. Does that mean it’s inspired casting? I don’t know, but Gibson certainly gave his all in portraying a man plagued by his own demons.

How Walter meets the furry hand puppet is actually pretty interesting. He was at the lowest point of his life, having just been kicked out of the house by his weary wife. It’s the morning after his botched suicide attempt that The Beaver suddenly took over him. It seemed that Walter’s no longer have a voice unless it came from his new um, identity.

It’s certainly amusing at first to see a beaver stuffed animal speaking in some weird Cockney-accent (Gibson’s own apparently, though I thought at first it was Michael Caine), and for a time it seemed as if the beaver did save him and his toy company. But soon we know that there’s no simple ‘cure’ for Walter’s condition and his shenanigans took a toll on his family as well. This film isn’t trying to explain the nuts and bolts of mental illness but actor/director Jodie Foster presents it with unflinching honesty.

Gibson and Foster were on screen together in a Western comedy Maverick, but this time around they’re not exactly exchanging playful banters. As I mentioned before, Gibson gave a no-holds-barred performance as someone losing complete control of his own life. Apparently Steve Carell was originally cast as Walter. I think this film might have a totally different vibe with Carell in the role, though we’ve seen him in this kind of role in Little Miss Sunshine.

Foster’s performance didn’t quite wow me, but I really sympathize with her character. It’s nice to see Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence in a movie together after seeing them in Like Crazy, even though their storyline seem to feel somewhat detached from what’s going on with Walter. I’m impressed with the kind of range Lawrence has in the few movies I’ve seen her in, she’s definitely one of the strongest young stars working today.

This is Foster’s third feature film directing project but the first one I’ve seen. I think she is a capable enough director though I think her biggest talent still lies in acting. Overall this is a decent movie though I feel like given the strong script, perhaps it could’ve been a much more compelling film. It’s not an enjoyable film per se and there are some cringe-worthy moments which is kind of expected given the subject matter. A couple other quibbles I have are that the film seems to drag a bit despite the relatively short 91-minute running time and Walter’s relationship with his older son doesn’t feel as convincing. But it’s still worth a watch and despite Gibson’s real life antics, I do think he’s a gifted actor who can balance both drama and comedy convincingly.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels

Have you seen The Beaver? In regards to Mel Gibson, does his personal life affect your decision to watch his films?