Review: The Beaver


In the new film The Beaver (hehe), Mel Gibson does not:
– demand that you give him oral sex “because he deserves it”
– call any women of authority “sugartits”
– make a snuff film and label it a “family film about Jesus”
– manage to offend an entire sect of people that in no way control Hollywood, but totally control Hollywood.

He will, however, talk through a puppet the entire movie and somehow remind you that beneath all that crazy, there’s still a phenomenal actor under there.

The Beaver follows Walter Black (played by Mel Gibson), a family man and CEO of a failing toy company who has been dealing with clinical depression. He spends most of his days sleeping, going to work, and just being a miserable wreck. His depression has estranged him from his wife (played by Jody Foster), left his youngest to feel invisible and has sent his eldest son (played by Anton Yelchin) into an obsessive mission to become nothing like his father. When his family has had enough with dealing with his depression, they kick him out and send him on an alcohol infused rampage that leads to two failed suicide attempts. When he awakes, he begins to use a beaver puppet (aptly named “The Beaver”) to communicate for him in an effort to disassociate his own personality and responsibility. With “The Beaver” now taking the reins, will Walter finally be able to beat his depression or will he lose himself completely leaving “The Beaver” to completely take over.

For a premise as interesting as The Beaver, the film never quite figures out where it’s going. Running off the fumes of a film like Lars & The Real Girl, The Beaver definitely tries its best to be quirky and charming, but it all ends up feeling a bit contrived and forced. The film rushes through most of its drama, never letting any kind of emotion or problem actually simmer, making every solution to a problem so immediate and disarming. It’s these two key factors that end up diminishing alot to what could’ve been a very poignant drama.

The sub plots of the film is another one of the film’s downfall, as these banal segments take away from what’s really important in the film. The story about Walter (or “The Beaver”, rather) getting his toy company out of the red seems utterly ridiculous the toy product they come up with should in NO WAY warrant the success and hysteria that it gets. Then there’s the sub plot the film involving Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence, which was so incredibly hackneyed and uninspried that it only becomes a shame that these two great young actors are underutilized into this stereotypical run of the mill high school story. These sub plots burn up a lot of time, and with a movie that’s burning through dramatic points like it grew on trees, you’re left with what is essentially half a movie.

Despite my problems with the script and the direction of the film, it’s rather odd to find that at the end of it all REALLY enjoyed The Beaver (hehe). Part of it (actually, most of it) has to do with Mel Gibson’s performance and, strangely enough, the character and emotion conveyed through the puppet. Mel Gibson pulls this performance out of this broken shattered man who talks through a puppet and somehow manages to separate both his character and the puppet. It’s a bit overwhelming at first to see Gibson’s mouth move as “The Beaver” speaks, but with time you begin to accept the puppet as a separate character. What helps achieve this “illusion” is the fact that Gibson looks so stone faced and broken every time the puppet speaks, maintaining this separation of characters (or personalities) through a subtle yet stoic performance. Though the film does a bad job explaining Walter’s connection to his family and the severity of his depression, Gibson’s performance sells you on the point that he truly is a sad broken individual. Yelchin also deserves notes for doing what he can with what he was given. Though his sub plot with Jennifer Lawrence is excruciatingly cliche, any screen time he had by himself or with Gibson was nuanced and well done.

What also helps the movie immensely is its climax, providing a dark turn that’s alarming yet welcome. The “turn” is one of those things that you always remember  about a film and would render the film moot if it were spoiled for you. Still, it’s a dark turn that I’m glad they had the balls to do in this quirky little movie. I’ve done my share of ripping apart the script, but the gravitas of the climax has to be applauded. I only wish they had expanded upon it, for as soon as that dark turn comes the credits soon follow.

Though The Beaver has a lot of problems (hehe) with it’s pacing and sub plots, the charm of the premise along with Gibson’s performance is what really brought this movie around. It’s a shame they didn’t explore more of Walter and how he got to this point, as I’m sure that Gibson could’ve carried the entire movie. What’s worse is that a lot of people are going to miss out on this performance due to Gibson’s new found role as Hollywood pariah. While I agree that the man is a raging abusive asshole and an awful human being, I only plead that despite how you feel about the man, judge him by the quality of his work and ignore the fact that his personal life is an utter mess. While The Beaver as a film is alright, it did a more important job in reinstalling my faith in the man’s acting prowess. Despite it’s problems and the troubles following its main actor, it’s still something worth seeing.

Overall Score: 6.30 – Okay. (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)