The Beaver Directed by: Jodie Foster Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin Running Time: 1 hr 31 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 6, 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. Or, one of the most bizarre. Either way, I challenge anyone curious about Gibson's performance, or even curious about watching Gibson "redeem himself," to see this movie.
EXPECTATIONS: While I abstained from previews, I did know the premise. The concept of Mel Gibson speaking through a beaver puppet was compelling enough alone to make me want to check this one out.
Mel Gibson as Walter Black: It's one of the most remarkable performances we may see this year, whether it personally works for you or not. Gibson hurls himself into this character, allowing the real life connections to fend for themselves as he plays with all shades of black (literally). Playing two characters at once, he gives the beaver a true pulse, while presenting Walter's transfixing lifelessness. Score: 8
Jodie Foster as Meredith Black: With her family falling apart, Meredith is the support to the family. Foster has very good chemistry with Gibson, especially when her character is trying to break through the beaver's wall and get in touch with Walter. Score: 6
Anton Yelchin as Porter Black: The story makes a certain effort to parallel the stories of Porter and Walter, but its imbalanced in intrigue. Yelchin is fine as a rebellious high schooler, but the story he's given, about writing speeches for smart kids, isn't as plainly memorable. At times Porter can be too flatly an embodiment of angst, something we've seen plenty of before. Score: 5
TALKING: The script works with beats that are somewhere between how real people talk, and how people talk in awkward indie movies. While the beaver itself is indeed animated at the grasp of Gibson, the beaver is something you are able to get into, and eventually accept. The beaver's accent is notably amusing, regardless of its randomness. Score: 6
SIGHTS: In order to keep things moving, The Beaver tells its story with an amount of montages that is more than usual, but it works. As for the title puppet itself, the beaver is expertly framed by the camera, dropping in and out of the frame, and sometimes being shot as if he were not attached to Mel Gibson's hand. It's sort of a small thing, but it's effective to the overall big picture. Score: 7
SOUNDS: The Beaver soundtrack is full of tangos, as performed on accordion. This music selection gives the film a unique atmosphere, partially self-amused, partially waltzing with sadness. Radiohead scores a twofer this week (they're also used in Something Borrowed) with the appearance of "Exit Music (For A Film)" playing during The Beaver's biggest drop into emotional uncertainty (and poignantly so). Score: 6
BEST SCENE: The introduction of the beaver's voice, as any time Walter talks to himself via the puppet, it's very amusing.
ENDING: After the events of The Beaver, this comes on the screen: "Depression is a family affair. Takepart.com/thebeaver."
QUESTIONS: Would a Mr. Beaver woodchopping kit really sell that well to kids today? Kind of crazy to think that, right?
REWATCHABILITY: Both as an odd moment in pop culture and as a film, The Beaver is worth a second, more analytical look.
The concept of watching "Mad Mel" Gibson walk around with a cockney puppet is given a more thoughtful handling than one could ever expect. The movie is aware of Gibson's problems (just look at that opening shot of him floating in a pool, on his back with arms outstretched to the sides). Some moments of poignant symbolism show this, but the viewer is also able to look at the film as if it were not just a self-conscious rebuttal to the image bestowed onto Gibson by tabloids, and his own general actions. Also, the movie is much funnier than one could expect with its pertinent theme of depression.
Of course The Beaver is a bit crazy, but it does work.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10