The Beaver

2011-07-15 13:15
The Beaver
What it's about:
Medication and therapy have both failed Walter Black (Gibson), leaving him with only one other option: a deep bottle of booze, and a short jump off a shower rail. In his drunken stupor, Walter finds an old beaver puppet, which accompanies him through his unsuccessful suicide. And it’s the beaver that saves his life.
What we thought:
I used to love Mel Gibson. And let’s make no mistake, whether director Jodie Foster likes it or not, The Beaver ultimately became all about Mel Gibson. This former fondness allowed me to put aside less fortunate events in Gibson’s recent history and watch The Beaver as if nothing had ever happened. I’d urge you to do the same. Because The Beaver is nothing like any movie you’ve ever seen.
We’re introduced to a man whom you’ll immediately recognise as the most defeated, depressed man on earth. His inherited company’s stock is steadily plummeting, and his tried and tired wife and teenage son have all but given up. But after years of trying to help him out of his depressive well, Walter’s wife Meredith (Foster) is left with no other option but to kick him out, before he takes their family down with him.
After being left to fend for himself, Walter is brought back to life through The Beaver. Ultimately, a second personality developed as a coping mechanism. Through it, he brings his company out of the gutter and back into the headlines; he reconnects with his wife, with a passion and charisma she hasn’t seen in years. His youngest boy is delighted with the father he’s never really had. The only person left unconvinced by what Walter has said is alternative therapy, is his teenage son, Porter (played by Anton Yelchin). But a lie, and a desperate clutching for a sense of control, can only last so long in a fragile mind.
But it's Porter who really made this movie endearing. We learn Walter’s morbid depression was inherited from his father, and Porter spends his time (and wall space full of Post-its) reminding himself of how he is similar to Walter, in an attempt to be anything but. He really echoes so many people in the world, in their inability to fully understand the disease that is depression. Something few of us can grasp until someone goes too far in their attempts to escape what’s become an inhabitable mind. Foster tries to use Porter’s experience to give us some perspective; some room to simply accept and try our hardest for someone we love, even if we don’t understand.
Gibson does the job well. The puppet isn’t overly distracting throughout the film, something about which I was greatly relieved. We loved him and his acting for a very long time, and although his profile may always be tainted, he’s still an amazing, charismatic actor and his performance pulls at your heartstrings.
There are aspects to love about this film: its intention to be a heart-breaking, heart-warming portrayal of how horrible mental illness can be. Then its short-comings: how real and how heart-warming is it? Parts of it seem so pretentious - an attempt to capture how difficult depression is for a family, but is it perhaps trying too hard to be quirky and 'real', resulting in a portrayal that's bizarre and unfamiliar? Did the man really need a puppet to develop another persona? I mean, do most people with multiple personality disorder need a prop? Not from what I understand. And that’s what The Beaver becomes: a prop to propel a movie from real and heart-wrenching, to a bit contrived.
If anything, I was intrigued by this movie. I wanted to know how it ended, I watched with anticipation to see what would happen next in this morbidly bizarre story. Though I didn’t hate it, I’m still not convinced by Jodie Forster’s latest venture as director, and what some were hoping would be Gibson’s comeback.
Having said that, do we really want to see a movie about something so horribly sad, without a comedic prop, such as The Beaver? It’s probably a lot better than having Gibson talk to himself in mirrors, or through Gollum-esque changing camera-angles. I can’t help but think that I quite... well... loved this film.
I don’t think anyone should miss this. It's a reminder of what Mel Gibson is best at, a chance to  some promising young talent at work, and just to have Jodie Foster on the big screen is an event in itself. Ultimately The Beaver is as intriguing and endearing as it is confusing.

What you thought:

Would you be curious to see Mel Gibson in his strange new role after his public humiliation over the last year? Or has his off-screen behaviour turned you off his movies completely?

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A man (played by Mel Gibson) hanging by a thin thread is pulled back to life through a ragged, old puppet.
Read more on:    jodie foster  |  mel gibson  |  movies  |  review

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