The Beaver

The Beaver is at its core a film about mental illness, which includes a puppet. It does not sound terribly exciting when you put it that way, nor does it sound much fun. The film is rather interesting in some ways, yet it manages to be quite dark (in humour also) and verges on deeply disturbing. I was not sure what to think of this film as it was unfolding, the trailers had been a little misleading. Once it settled in, I really didn’t mind the film as a whole, I think it took some brave steps and it made for an interesting directorial effort from Jodie Foster. It tells the story of a depressed and suicidal man named Walter Black (Mel Gibson), he is an executive at a toy company and has distanced himself from his family. When he finally decides to take the plunge, his subconscious pulls him away from it in the form of a puppet simply known as The Beaver. Through this puppet Walter is able to disappear and communicate as someone else through this new personality he has invented. Soon he is able to go back to his family life, and bring in fresh and successful ideas to the company which was on the verge of failure. All of this comes at a price, and Walter’s dependance on the puppet becomes dangerous.
The film is not an easy one to actually lay out with a synopsis, so I will leave it at that. The positives for the film really lie with Mel Gibson, this film proves there is a great actor in there somewhere. The man has been in the media for the better part of the last 10 years for mostly the wrong reasons. It seemed like there would be no bouncing back from his personal demons, however this film is a step in the right direction. If he can keep himself on track, there is no reason why he can’t produce great performances such as this. I would not doubt that under the guidance of Foster that he used his demons and personal life to make this performance, and at times it does feel all too real. It is a different approach to mental illness, and the way it is handled is awfully strange. The way that Walter takes to this puppet is almost absurd but does not entirely feel that way. Maybe it is because I have seen my fair share of people who belong under serious mental care on the train or wondering around the city, in contrast he almost seems normal. The performance was not an easy to pull off either, as about 90% of his performance is done through the puppet. He really disappears into this role, the puppet is the one that we as the audience actually start to get involved with. The rest of the cast including Jodie Foster as his wife Meredith, Anton Yelchin as his oldest son Porter, Jennifer Lawrence as Porters love interest Norah and Cherry Jones as another executive at the company are all rather good. No one particularly stood out, I mean Foster could do this role in her sleep and we’ve seen that Yelchin and Lawrence are fine young actors and ones that will lead their generation.

The Beaver is a bit of a mixed bag though, we no not get any insight in what really led Walter to get to this point. We don’t know how long he has really been in a bad way, there just isn’t enough background and as a result it was a little difficult to get invested with him right away. The sub-plot involving his son isn’t really needed either, it is there to kind of run a parallel between father and son and it does not entirely work. However seeing Yelchin and Lawrence do their thing was fine, there are certainly much worse things you could be doing then see these two on screen. I don’t think we had enough interactions between Meredith and Walter, what they showed was fine but I wanted to see more. They both had great chemistry here, so it is a shame it went a little wasted. There were a few other things in the film that felt a little out of place, and I wasn’t entirely sure they were needed, but I can’t really mention what they are as it would be going into spoiler territory. The film had an interesting soundtrack, and the use of Radiohead’s Exit Music For A Film was certainly a nice touch. The script was rather solid, all the talent involved definitely elevated it to something a little better.
I was surprised by this film, and I definitely welcome anything Foster decides to direct in the future. She has the talent, and it would be a shame not to put it to good use. The film took chances, and it does go into unexpected directions. While other films might have gone for the obvious and clichéd conclusions, The Beaver does not and I admire that. It is not a feel good film, it isn’t uplifting, it simply presents things the way that they are in life and shows the audience that things aren’t always going to work out, and sometimes you need to seek help when you need it. I would say this is a film worth seeing, if anything watch it to see Mel Gibson turn in one of the best performances of his career. Do be warned, this is not a light hearted affair and does go into some dark places. For some it will work, for others it will not, but an interesting and courageous film all the same.
Rating:

2 thoughts on “The Beaver

  1. While I disagree with both of your main criticisms – I think that Walter was introduced vaguely on purpose, so that we can each apply our own personal reasons for depression onto him; I also feel that the Son’s sub-plot was entirely necessary, not in a narrative sense but in a thematic one – we are still in consensus on your conclusion.

    Ray Winstone should be paid royalties for his work in it.

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  2. I do agree with you on why it was done, but for me personally it was more difficult to open up to this character. The son sub-plot was hit/miss as I said, but Anton Yelchin is always welcome and perhaps that relationship needed a bit more development.

    Agreed on Ray Winstone 😉

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