The great tragedy of The Beaver is that it cannot be taken seriously. It employs a first-rate cast and the performances are excellent, but the premise is such that (1) not even suspension of disbelief can work you through it, and (2) even if it could, the film doesn’t send an especially worthwhile message. I’m well aware that depression is real and that there are numerous ways to cope with it, but I don’t believe that the particular method employed by the main character is healthy. There are many scenes that aren’t even plausible. Basically, we watch a man sink deeper and deeper into mental illness. This could have worked had it been done in an informative and respectful way, but it wasn’t. For director Jodie Foster and screenwriter Kyle Killen, I’m sure the intention was to present a compelling and heartwarming little story; what they ended up with was first silly, then just plain sad.
It stars Mel Gibson as Walter Black. Despite being a husband, a father, and the CEO of a toy company, he’s in a depression so severe that all he can do is sleep. It gets to the point where his wife, an engineer named Meredith (Foster), lovingly kicks him out of the house. At a motel, where Walter had every intention of committing suicide, he was “saved” by a beaver puppet, which he saw lying in a dumpster and was compelled to claim as his own, for reasons known only to him. He puts it over his left arm and, through simple hand puppetry, begins speaking to himself: “I am the beaver,” he says in a thick cockney accent, “and I’m here to save your goddamn life.” He’s no ventriloquist, but then again, he’s not trying to be. He soon reenters the life of his family, and is immediately accepted by his young son, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart). It might seem like the two are bonding, but I would wager the kid sees this as Daddy’s Special Playtime; he has no real notion of what his father is doing or why he’s doing it.
For Meredith and their older son, Porter (Anton Yelchin), Walter provides a card explaining that they should address the puppet rather than the man, since it’s part of a radical but necessary new form of therapy. Meredith is understandably confused by her husband’s actions, but since he – or rather the beaver – is getting along with Henry, she seems willing to indulge him. The same cannot be said for Porter, an angst-riddled teenager so determined to not end up like his father that he keeps track of the mannerisms they share on Post-It notes. He takes part in his own subplot, one that has little if any connection to the rest of the film. In school, he has a reputation for writing other students’ essays, usually for a fee of around $200. No, I’m not exaggerating. One day, he’s approached by the school valedictorian, Norah (Jennifer Lawrence), who has to deliver the graduation speech but has no idea what she wants to say. I’m not certain someone in that position would ever achieve the distinction of valedictorian, but never mind. The two inevitably grow close, although not in a way I could buy into.
Meanwhile, Walter “resigns” his position at his toy company, allowing the beaver to “take charge.” At a time when the company is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, along comes a puppet with a revolutionary idea to revitalize business. I will not say what that idea is. I will say that I sat in utter disbelief as Walter’s employees took everything the beaver said seriously. If you were sitting in a board meeting, and your boss was talking through a hand puppet, would you find it amusing, or would you anxiously squirm in your seat? Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-time-only moment of cuteness; your boss would be doing this everyday for weeks on end. At a certain point, I should think someone would call Bellevue.
There are many moments like that in this film. One of the most inappropriate scenes involves Walter and Meredith having sex – and yes, the puppet remains on his hand the entire time. It was one of those rare moments when I truly had no idea how to feel. Was it intended to be funny or creepy?
As the film progresses, Walter’s coping mechanism devolves into a dissociative mental disorder. When you reach that point, you’ve officially surpassed implausibility and entered the realm of the pathetic. A scene exemplifying this doesn’t feature Walter at all; instead, it features Norah, who delivers what’s surely the single most depressing graduation speech ever written, for film or real life. Everyone involved with The Beaver had their hearts in the right place, and let me reiterate that the actors all give wonderful performances. Gibson in particular was perfectly cast, in large part because of his highly publicized battle with alcoholism and the resulting accusations of racism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny. Foster is very convincing as a woman desperate to save her husband, not just for herself, but also for her children. I don’t much blame her as the director of this film. The material was fatally flawed from the start, so there really wasn’t anything she could have done to save it – except maybe not make it.
I always support almost any actor/actress who is going for a new position in filmmaking by watching their movies. Actors such as Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven), Mel Gibson (Braveheart) and Jon Favreau (Iron Man) have had their successes when the transition from performer to the one behind the camera came and now, it may be time for Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs) to shine as director (corrected: her first project was Little Man Tate. Thanks, @Trekscribbler). It is with this mindset that … more
** out of **** The Jodie Foster-directed drama "The Beaver" misses success because of its subject matter. You probably know what the film is about; a depressed father (Mel Gibson) finds a puppet beaver in a dumpster and develops a sort of alternate ego whenever his hand is inserted in the stuffed mammal's asshole. The beaver speaks in a British accent; and is smarter, more emotionally capable than Gibson's character ever was. This opens new doors for the character, although … more
THE BEAVER Written By Kyle Killen Directed by Jodie Foster Starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence The Beaver: Everybody needs a friend, Walter, and you’ve got me. Who does depression hurt? Everybody. Ordinarily, this would mean to include everyone directly involved with a person suffering from depression but thanks to Jodie Foster, now depression can also hurt everyone … more
What can I say? I'm a big fan of both Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. I'd probably watched any movie by them as long as it's not perverted! The Beaver is a light movie about a heavy subject matter. I think as a movie goer (although I actually watched it downloaded through an app) we, at least I, won't choose any depressive material as subject matter. Hence, a movie about a depressed man could hardly be attractive enough to go to the cinema for, even if it stars both Gibson & Foster. It may just be … more
'The Beaver' stars Mel Gibson as Walter Black/The Beaver. The movie is directed by Jodie Foster who plays Walter's long suffering wife Meredith. Walter, a once successful toy executive and family man suffers from major depression. No matter what he tries...(pills, therapy, exercise, flagellating himself) Walter cannot shake the feeling that life is meaningness and all is hopeless. This dude is really in the dumps. … more
The life of the troubled husband Walter Black proves that Jodie Foster could do much more as a director than anyone could think. She has the eye and the spirit for the job if she managed to turn a movie with a puppet into probably the best original drama of this year. Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is a depressed man who surrounded by monotony, daily routine, empty weekends, work issues and family disaster tries to find a way out of his pathetic and sad life, a life … more
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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