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?

34 thoughts on “Rental Pick: The Beaver

  1. great write up. It sounds really interesting. Mel Gibson is a fantastic actor when his heads right. Hopefully he can attone for what he did and keep making interesting movies

    1. Hi Kobie, glad to see you on FC! I can separate an actor’s personal and professional life but yeah I do hope he gets his act together. I agree he’s a fantastic actor AND director, and I do think his career is far from over if he plays his card right.

      1. I generally don’t think any entertainer’s personal life should matter when it comes to there job. They are paid to entertain, whether that be in film,music, etc. They aren’t paid to be role models.

        But then again, i am generally a live and let live person, so the list of things i would find off putting is probably smaller than most. Generally as long as they obey the golden rule i don’t care what they do in there personal lives.

        1. That’s right Julian. I despised what Roman Polanski did but I still watched Ghost Writer which he directed. But sometimes there are actors that I just don’t care for not because of their opinions on certain matters but because they just seems like total douchebags. Case in point: Sean Penn.

  2. Gibson’s personal antics aside, this was never gonna be an easy movie to sell, regardless of whether Foster chose to play it straight or for laughs. I think Foster did the best she could with the material and Gibson, to his credit, was remarkable, but this is the kind of film you need to lead people to by the hand, because they won’t seek it out as quickly as, say, ‘Moneyball,’ which is much more of a crowd-pleaser. For the record, I liked it.

    1. Hi Rich, yeah this is not a crowd-pleaser by any means. The trailer is trying to sell it from the comedy angle but I somehow knew the film would be kind of sad, which it is. I appreciate it but it’s not something I’d want to watch again.

  3. Great review, I thought this was a great film, and I agree with Rich in the above comment, it didn’t matter if Gibson was doing the part or not, the material is probably the hardest sell especially to regular audiences. And if you liked Fosters directing in this definitely check out her other works behind the camera, especially “Little Man Tate”.

    And if you want check out my review of “The Beaver” from earlier this year.

    1. Hi Amanda, glad you’ve seen this one. I might check out the other two movies that Foster directed one day. Thanks for the link, I’ll check out your review.

  4. Ted S.

    I’ve always like Gibson as actor/director, I tend to forget his personal life when it comes to his work, same with Tom Cruise. But that’s just me since a lot of people can’t stand those two guys.

    Anyhoo, when I saw the trailer of this film, it looked interesting since Gibson is essentially playing himself. I’ll probably give it a rent.

      1. Ted S.

        Well if you remember my Fahrenheit 451 article, Gibson wanted to cast Cruise in the lead role of that remake so bad he waited for him to finish filming Eyes Wide Shut. It would’ve been funny had they made that film together and now they’re the two most hated actors in Hollywood.

        1. Oh right, I forgot about that. Well I don’t think that’s gonna be happening but seems like Cruise is back on people’s good graces again as he’s got tons of offers the past year.

    1. Oh yeah, I saw the trailer at my friend Scarlet Sp1der’s blog. The cast is amazing, it’s chock full of Oscar winners. I love Christoph ever since Inglourious Basterds.

  5. I had the exact same feeling Ruth. The script was quite good so I was left a bit disappointed by the movie. Foster’s direction is to blame in my view, she decided to play straight down the middle of the road instead of making the movie more edgy, that resulted in something way too modest to leave any lasting impact on the viewer. And yes, you are right the Walter’s son subplot just wasn’t all that compelling.

    1. I believe you sent me the script so thanks for that. Yeah, it could’ve been a lot more engaging I thought but still it’s not bad. I just feel that the whole subplot of his son and the girl at school so detached from what’s going on w/ the main character. It’s more in the way Foster directing them, not in the acting.

  6. Great review, Ruth. I am not a Gibson fan at all, but this movie is somewhat intriguing. I had no idea Jennifer Lawrence was in this either. I may end up renting it after all.

  7. wow! completely forgot that Yelchin was in this film!

    Seems you liked this one more than I thought you might. I may end up watching it some night on tv when there’s nothing else on and I’m too lazy to get up and put something in my Blu-ray player!

    Nice review!

    1. Yeah, he talked about this movie briefly during our interview, something about reshoots whilst he was filming Like Crazy I think. I wish I had asked him how it was working w/ Mel Gibson!

  8. I quite enjoyed The Beaver, even though I think there’s unexplained parts about why Gibson suddenly find comfort in making the beaver running his life. Gibson is definitely a great actor, and it didn’t feel weird at all seeing him doing the beaver dialog with his character. I agree with being sympathetic with Foster. It’s a worth to watch movie.

    1. Hi Andina, you’re right there’s no explanation about why he’s suddenly taken over by the hand puppet but again we’re dealing w/ someone w/ mental illness so there’s obviously unexplained bizarre behaviors come w/ the territory. Gibson does make it look effortless and almost natural, it’s both funny and sad at the same time.

    1. Yeah that’s how I felt too, that last scene of them together would’ve had more impact if the relationship had been more developed I think. Thanks Nostra.

  9. Hi, Ruth

    I have The Beaver before me, borrowed from the library and am trying to decide whether to try to convince my family to watch it. I’m still on the fence but I’ve always been a big Jodie Foster fan and I’d kind of like to see Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. I guess I will be watching it just not sure whether that will be with company or alone.

    Thanks for your thoughts on the movie.

  10. Pingback: Acting School 101: Jodie Foster | The Large Association of Movie Blogs

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