really had no shot when it was released earlier this year.
is about a difficult, touchy subject: depression and mental illness. The
plot is not something that is easily summarized. The subject is handled in
an offbeat – to say the least – manner. Just the basic plot thumbnail – a
man who will only communicate through a beaver hand puppet – seems rather
absurd. It also is a very dramatic take on a premise that seems like it
would lend itself much more to a goofy comedy.
there is the star. Mel Gibson has spent most of the last decade tarnishing
his reputation through alcoholism, anti-Semitic rants, a very public breakup
of his long-term marriage and the ugly and violent dissolution of his
ensuing relationship. As far as his acting career, The Beaver is
only his second acting job in nearly a decade, since he took a long
sabbatical after N. Night Shyamalan’s Signs in 2002, only returning
with last year’s Edge of Darkness. In that time, he tried to segue
into filmmaking, being responsible for one of the biggest (and most
controversial) movies of the last decade (The Passion of the Christ)
and one of the most overlooked and overblown ones as well (Apocalypto).
Hell, he lost so much clout in Hollywood that he was fired from a cameo role
in The Hangover II because Zach Galifianakis did not want to work
with him. Imagine that, Mr. Lethal Weapon is in such a precarious
place that some upstart comic can call the shots on his career.
Still, filmmaker Jodie Foster believed in the talent and deep-down goodness
of her embattled friend and leading man, several times delaying the filming
and release of The Beaver to let Gibson’s little peccadilloes fade
away from public consciousness.
Gibson has rewarded her with his finest acting performance in years,
probably even decades. This performance is Mel Gibson the actor, not Mel
Gibson the personality, reaching character depths like he used to in movies
like The Year of Living Dangerously – before the cheesy blockbusters
and buddy cop films put his skills into autopilot.
bad almost nobody saw it. Now, with The Beaver getting its video
release, the public apathy about the project does not seem to be changing.
Which is a shame. The Beaver is an odd, often difficult little
movie, but it definitely does have something of importance to say. And
through this role, perhaps, we get a little more of a glimpse into the soul
of a man who allowed his personal demons to take him from Mad Max
superstardom to humbled Hollywood pariah.
is a pretty neat trick for a movie about a man who will only talk to people
through a puppet. However, somewhat like Lars and the Real Girl with
Ryan Gosling a few years ago, or the volleyball Wilson in Tom Hanks’
Castaway, it seems there is some real dramatic tension in a grown man who is
so cut off from reality that an inanimate object takes on a vital life of
Walter, the main character here, is in a much deeper psychological hole than
Lars ever was. And Wilson, honestly, was just a coping mechanism for a man
lost at sea.
Strangely, the beaver is also a coping mechanism for a man lost at sea – but
Walter not physically cut off from the real world, he is emotionally.
Walter comes from a long line of manic-depressives – it is hinted that his
father committed suicide years ago and his youngest son (Anton Yelchin) is
also showing all the early classic signs of the condition.
Walter’s business is quickly failing and he has become distant to his wife
(played by the film’s director, Foster), preferring to sleep than talk. His
depressive son hates him and tries desperately not to be like him, and the
younger son is too little to understand his father’s apathy towards
Walter is in a black hole and suicidal when suddenly he finds a beaver hand
puppet in the trash. He takes it on a whim, and later when he tries to end
it all, he finds that he is being heckled by the British-accented toy. He
needs to make some real changes to get his life on track, and the beaver is
going to take over his life.
Walter finds that he can communicate with people through the beaver in a way
that he no longer can one-on-one. Everyone realizes that they are one and
the same (Walter’s lips obviously move when the beaver is talking), but the
beaver allows him to regain the joy in his life, reconcile with his wife and
rejuvenate his business.
Eventually, though, the beaver takes too much control of Walter, so just how
far is he willing to go to break free?
sometimes goes too far in its own eccentric direction and periodically makes
some odd story choices, but that sort of works too with the extremity of
it’s lead character’s condition. It is a much deeper film than the central
conceit even hints at. Then again, if the worst you can say about a movie
is that it has too many ideas for its own good, then it must be doing
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: August 23, 2011.