Blu-ray Review The Beaver
Directed by: Jodie Foster Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: PG-13 Due Out: August 23, 2011
PLOT: To deal with his depression, a family man (Gibson) interacts with the world only with a puppet he found in the garbage.
WHO'S IT FOR? The Beaver is one of the more curious projects to come from Hollywood as of late. It's certainly one of the more bizarre. I challenge anyone curious about Gibson’s performance, or even curious about watching Gibson “redeem himself,” to see this movie. In general, I challenge all regular moviegoers to give this movie a chance, and to look past tabloid presentations of an actor. Instead, let him speak for himself. Even if it's through a puppet.
One of the most unusual and ultimately special movies released so far this year, The Beaver is a challenging dark comedy that either speaks directly about Mel Gibson as an actor, or not at all. Part of the unique beauty of this movie is that you can choose whether to connect its components to our reality, or you can simply apply it to the realized, believable characters within the story. Director Jodie Foster tells this story with both possibilities in mind. The movie goes well beyond its gimmick, and offers adventurous viewers two stories in reward: a reflection from Foster about her friend Mel, and a solidly constructed story of a family crumbling under a father’s weakness.
As mentioned in the behind the scenes documentary on this Blu-ray, an important aspect about this story is the tone, which is handled with notable grace by Foster. The Beaver doesn’t pretend that its title puppet is a normal means for a person to talk, (a la the existence of this movie), as it finds both the humor and desperation of such an idea. It can play up the inanimate object as a mysterious, helpful creature, or it can be felt as the only desperate tool a person has to communicate with anyone he is not physically connected to. Especially with the help of poetic cinematography, the beaver is eventually presented as something with a life of its own.
Jodie Foster’s vision for the story, which echoes a domestic tone similar to American Beauty, is not entirely perfect. Her presentation of high school is too much from the view of a parent, instead of feeling believable. Some emotional moments with Yelchin and Lawrence’s characters teeter on cheesy, despite their attempt at touching the audience. The movie even features a scene in which a life-changing character proclamation is made during a graduation speech (a cliché that at least Crazy Stupid Love. used with some earnestness).
Flat out, Gibson’s multi-faceted performance is underrated. For his work with the puppet alone, in which he gives an inanimate object a true mind of its own, he deserves praise, and possibly even the return of his showmanship credibility. His presence as Walter Black is also something to admire, slipping into a possibly self-reflective role with the same intensity of his now infamous tirades. He’s got our attention this time with The Beaver, and possibly even our understanding.
While The Beaver is a strange way to get “Mad Mel” to talk, it certainly encourages us to listen.
MOVIE SCORE: 7/10
Deleted Scenes Audio Commentary with Jodie Foster Behind the Scenes Featurette