The Beaver (2011)
Directed by Jodie Foster
Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence
At first listen of the premise, it’s impossible not to question the direction of this film. In short, The Beaver is about a depressed man who seeks a cure by speaking through a hand puppet. Yes, this is a strange film, but it contains a surprising amount of good-will and heart.
In the first third of the film, there is a great deal of nervous laughter that will fill up the room, mainly because it takes a while to come to terms with a man speaking through a hand puppet of a beaver? Mel Gibson plays Walter, the depressed toy company owner and a father of two sons. The young one, Henry, adores him while the old one, Porter, loathes him.
As Walter sees the beaver as a miracle breakthrough from his depression, his friends and family are torn. His wife Meredith (Foster) appreciates the instant change she notices, but cannot bring herself to living with him and his puppet forever. Henry finds the beaver amusing, but Porter just adds the gimmick to a list of why he hates his father. The only group of people who like the beaver is at work, where he flips the near-bankrupt company around with a brilliant idea.
The other story-line involves Porter as he attempts to write a valedictorian speech for the smart and pretty cheerleader, Norah (Jennifer Lawrence). The more he gets to know her, the more he realizes she’s not as perfect as she seems and even has her own demons to deal with just like himself. Jennifer Lawrence continues to be one of the best, young actresses in Hollywood and her supporting role in this film proves that.
For anyone who has been familiar with Mel Gibson’s off-screen life in the news, it’s very difficult to separate his solid performance in The Beaver from his troubled personal life. Did this make it a role that only he could’ve pulled off to such magnitude? Maybe. But I believe this hurts the movie more than it helps. As for Jodie Foster’s direction of the film, there’s nothing breath-taking, but nothing bad about it either. For a very unique film, she’s awfully safe in telling such a troubling tale.
Overall, The Beaver isn’t a particularly easy film to watch with its dark tones of depression, death, and a family being torn apart. But the occasional light-hearted humor and warmth makes the film enjoyable enough for most. There is a huge portion of the film that takes imagination to believe this is how real-life people would react. Think of it as an alcoholic version of Shari Lewis, except the beaver’s song does come to an end.