Director: Jodie Foster
Writer: Kyle Killen
Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 91 minutes
USA Release: 5/6/2011 (Limited)
On DVD (USA): 8/23/2011
Stress, depression, anxiety, this is something that we all face, sometimes everyday. For some its what’s going on at home, others its everything that is going on at work, and sometimes its just life in general. How do you face it, anyway you possible can. That’s exactly what “The Beaver” is about, yes it might be a very unusual way for a man to work out his life but hey to each his own. As many have seen a lot of controversy has been brought up surrounding this film, from the material to it’s stars, that aside it looks to be a very interesting film. So everyone find their seat as the lights go down and the film starts to roll…
“The Beaver” is about Walter Black (Mel Gibson), he is battling major depression (can’t get out of bed depression), something his family can no longer take and he is soon kicked out. On that same night he makes a liquor run and while throwing things into a nearby dumpster comes across a puppet of a beaver, so he takes it. At first it’s nothing special, it’s just puppet but when Walter reaches he lowest point and tries to take his own life that’s when The Beaver awakens to help him. Now when he does return to his family a day or two later the change is immediate but still very shocking seeing as a grown man has a puppet on his hand. But his youngest child Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) and wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) try to embrace it, because they want their dad/husband back, unfortunately the feeling is not the same for his oldest son Porter (Anton Yelchin) who just sees it as something he doesn’t want to end up as. Porter who has is own lucrative business writing papers for classmates suddenly has his hands full as the class valedictorian Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) wants him to ghost write her graduation speech, and soon the two start to hang out so that he can get a better understanding of what she might want to say. During that time things seem to be getting better for Walter and everyone else, the thought of looking and talking to that puppet are starting to get to the breaking point for Meredith.
Now this isn’t Jodie Foster’s first time for anything, although her acting experience greatly out weighs her directing, this still isn’t her first time sitting behind the camera and this hopefully won’t be the last. In many cases being an actor gives you a little more insight into their needs when you are directing. In any case Foster and Hagen Boghanski (DP) did an amazing job shooting this using both of their experience to know when the scene worked well with a close up, that said it was so close that it was almost claustrophobic but it made its point by really bringing up more to the emotion. Although this story is not relatable to everyone there are aspects that have probably happened to some of us due to stress. Wonderfully written it teeters into almost complete darkness just like the speech Jennifer Lawrence’s character gives but it turns out to finish in a well rounded fashion. Yes some aspects you will see coming but it does surprise you how it gets there, instead of the usual when something good happens something bad must be coming next, this gives you longer good moments but that also means longer bad moments, but its still a little different. And yes it’s a straight up drama like the trailer shows but you can find some lighthearted moments and surprisingly even a few laughs. A few times I found this to almost turn into a thriller/horror film, but that just might have been me.
Now as you would have guessed seeing as there are 2 Oscar winners (Gibson & Foster) and 1 Oscar nominee (Lawrence) you know that the performances are going to be spectacular. But lets start with Riley Thomas Stewart who is in his first major role in a feature film (he is best known for his Highlander commercials) even if there isn’t much to the role he still did a fantastic job, and although he embraces the puppet it still doesn’t make up for his dad who he only wants to get better. As for Jennifer Lawrence she also does a fantastic job, one of the best things is the chemistry between her and Yelchin, it’s electric and I hope they make more films together. At first her character seems straightforward much like Porter thinks but deep inside trying to bust out is all of the sadness eating away. Speaking of Anton Yelchin and the fine chemistry his has with Lawrence there is a scene that is a bit much and that’s the head bashing scenes, yes it is something that is a believable factor in a teenagers life just maybe not the extent in the film. But other than that he did a great job like always, his character tracks his every movement to make trying tremendously not to be like his father and that’s just the thing making him more like him and causing him to do down the same road. Jodie Foster on the other hand has a pretty easy role to figure out, but it’s the emotion that she brings that make this a performance that like always stands out. While the movies moves your feeling to want to fight for him grows just like it does for her. Like the youngest son she is trying to embrace everything but after awhile it’s just not enough to sit back and talk to a living dead-minded man through a puppet. For Mel Gibson, I’d like to say welcome back (I can already hear the boos) I don’t really much care what’s been going on in your personal life all I care is about your performance, which was amazing. Although there are a lot of his more well known films I still haven’t seen as of this review but of the ones I have seen this is well above and beyond. So much emotion is in this split role as he plays out the character and the puppet. Like the story, the performance carefully plays on the edge of sheer hopelessness and depression but the flow of good moments lets you breath. This could possibly get him some Oscar buzz, I’m unsure since it’s still the beginning of the year and there are many films to come, but this controversial story and role/performance does have everyone talking.
All in all “The Beaver” is an amazing film that although it has a lot of controversy surrounding it, it’s worth checking out. With amazing performances from the entire cast especially by Mel Gibson, in what is probably his comeback role. And an interesting story that has tons of emotion. So don’t let this film go unnoticed, make sure you check it out, just make sure you put any negative feelings for Gibson aside for an hour and a half.