Review: The Beaver
PLOT : Walter (Mel Gibson) is a troubled family man, nearing the end of his rope. His wife (Jodie Foster) has just thrown him out, and his eldest son (Anton Yelchin) despises him. After finding a beaver puppet in the trash, and drunkenly putting it on during a failed suicide attempt, he awakens to discover that the puppet is now going to take control of his life. Initially, Walter seems to be revitalized through his use of this therapeutic puppet, but soon he discovers that hes just as much a prisoner of his depression as he always was, puppet or no puppet.
REVIEW : THE BEAVER is a film Ive been anxious to see for a while now. It feels like its taken forever to hit the big screen, no doubt having a lot to do with Gibsons recent troubles. With his personal life seems to have turned off most of his audience (its worth noting that so far, THE BEAVER has been nothing short of a box-office disaster), this baggage actually makes his performance all the more captivating.
Let me explain...
In THE BEAVER, Gibson plays an extremely troubled character. Hes a man who, in his middle-age, has ruined his career, alienated and embarrassed his family, and is a shell of his former self. I dont want to say Gibsons the same, but hes had more than his share of trouble lately, and in many ways, it feels like he lets it all hang out in THE BEAVER.
Its a brave performance, as this is about as far removed from the eighties/nineties movie-star Mel that once ruled Hollywood. Many other actors his age wouldnt have the guts to play a role like this, instead trying to hang on to their movie stardom as long as they possibly can. Say what you will about Mel, but hes never been afraid to take risks professionally. If ten years ago someone had told me Gibson would give one of the best performances of his career playing a guy who mouths ninety percent of his dialogue through a beaver puppet (and sporting a Ray Winstone-style accent), I would have thought they were crazy. If the stuff with his ex-girlfriend hadnt of happened, I think Gibson would have likely gotten an Oscar nomination for the role (but he hasnt a chance now sadly).
That said, the rest of the film doesnt quite measure up to Mels performance. Jodie Foster is excellent (as always) playing his wife, although, oddly, she seems to have given herself the most underdeveloped role. It would have been nice if a bit more time had been spent examining the impact Walters illness is having on her, but no dice. As a director, she does a solid job (her earlier LITTLE MAN TATE is a wonderful film), but at ninety minutes, this thing draaaaaags. Truthfully, the subplot with Gibsons son, played by Yelchin, didnt do much for me, and takes up too much screen time. Yelchin is great, but I wish the focus had stayed on Gibson, who was a much more interesting character. Compared to a guy who talks through a beaver puppet, the struggles of a spoiled teenager dont really measure up. I did, however, like Jennifer Lawrence as the object of Yelchins affections (a cheerleader-natch).
Its too bad THE BEAVER isnt quite the great film I was expecting. It does feel a bit like the premise cant quite sustain a feature film, and might have made for a better novel than a film. Nevertheless, its still worth seeing, if only for Gibsons performance.
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