It’s sort of scary to watch a film like Jodie Foster’s THE BEAVER which stars Mel Gibson when it coincides almost directly with the embarrassingly public meltdown he endured. However, the film can also serve as a means for the actor to get back on track, much like Gibson’s character in the film. THE BEAVER is a slightly uneven mix of dark humor and drama that’s compelling one minute and drifts into dullness the next. It remains an interesting escape into the perception of borderline mental illness, a lost sense of self and complete mental psychosis.
Mel Gibson stars as Walter Black, a man running a business he was in no way prepared to run and spiraling violently downward into the deepest depths of severe depression. The effects of his depression are tearing his family into shreds and he’s on the verge of suicide when he finds a beaver hand puppet in the dumpster. Walter then begins to use the beaver as his ONLY means of communicating with every person he comes into contact with include his wife, children and co-workers. To justify these actions he instructs them to read a card that indicates the beaver is under use as a means for Walter to distance himself from the negative aspects of his personality. Walter’s wife and select members in his family tolerate the behavior and his co-workers embrace it until it reaches a point where enough is enough and Walter’s wife fears that he has separated himself too much from his own reality.
To say Mel Gibson is in need of something cathartic and redeeming of his character would be an understatement. After his very public phone message tirade it would seem the only thing to do would be crawl under a rock and hide until all was forgiven or forgotten. THE BEAVER however puts him in the forefront as the star and probably the most redeeming aspect of the film as far as performances are concerned. I won’t say I didn’t find it a little awkward to watch him at first- but the film and his performance grew on me.
There’s a bit of an odd mixture of humor in the premise as well as watching Gibson speak in an English accent when communicating solely through the puppet. There’s humor in people’s reactions to his decision and there’s also drama as well as it being a little depressing to watch a man that’s staked saving his entire life by talking through a beaver hand puppet. The visual itself of someone speaking in a business setting or everyday situations with a puppet in hand is extremely laughable- but it works.
There really isn’t a bad performance to be found- Gibson is great, Jodie Foster directs and stars as Gibson’s supportive but apprehensive wife. Anton Yelchin plays one of Gibson’s teenage sons that is fully embarrassed and angsty about his father’s behavior and Oscar Nominee Jennifer Lawrence shows up and does a great job. The performances do not really click until their dramatic depth begins to show- when characters begin to break down from the events and Gibson himself continues his psychological breakdown when his beaver personality threatens to take over for good.
As far as complaints I would have to say that even at a brisk hour and half the time felt a bit too long. If the filmmakers had leaned a little more on some more comedic tones here and there than heavy drama at times it may have been a little more tolerable. As it is the film drags on more than one occasion and at times I had to coerce myself from nodding off in order to get all the way to the end. The premise itself is somewhat of a crutch at times during the film as well as my willingness to accept Walter’s mental instability began to teeter back and forth.
THE BEAVER is a film that does not take mental instability lightly but does approach it in a skewed light so the content within doesn’t seem mean spirited or irresponsible. It’s a bit surreal to watch after the events of Mel Gibson’s public meltdown but he does give a great performance as does the rest of the cast. Those looking for a light hearted affair should be turned away as the film can be pretty dark and dramatic. THE BEAVER drags along during select sections but overall it is still a compelling and entertaining character piece with some fine performances.