Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I get that not too many people are all that fond of Mel Gibson right now, with all the drunken anti-semantic rants and racist verbal attacks… I get it, hell… I belong to one of those groups the psycho went off on in one of his drunken tirades. And I’m not here to defend Mel, because the man does need help and his actions are indefensible… a lot like his character in this movie ‘The Beaver’… but I do believe his talent is fairly undeniable, and ‘The Beaver’ only cements this belief of mine. Besides, I have more of an issue with The Hollywood Elite giving standing ovations to convicted pedophile Roman Polanski than ostracizing this drunken lunatic.

Walter Black (Gibson) is depressed. I mean seriously, this cat is down in the dumps on a severe clinical level. Our narrator, who we will learn is The Beaver and who sounds an awful lot like actor Ray Winstone, fills us in on the plight of Walter Black. He’s the CEO of a toy company which he’s guided into the dirt, his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) is detached within her job as a roller coaster designer, his youngest son Herny (Riley Thomas Stewart) thinks he’s invisible or something, and his oldest boy Porter (Anton Yelchin) hates his father so much that he makes notes of his every single move in an effort to just do the opposite so he won’t be like his old man.

Eventually Walter’s depression has gotten so bad that his wife kicks him out, and like any depressed guy who has had another bad thing happen to him, Walter tries to kill himself. He can’t even do that right. The thing is, and I can’t remember why, but Walter was wearing a beaver hand puppet on his left arm when he was trying to do this thing, and through a series of strange events, The Beaver hand puppet has come to life and has become the primary personality of the persona of Walter Black.

So what happens now? Well, the man has a stuffed Beaver stuck to his arm, one with a British accent no less that now speaks for him. That’s crazy, right? But where Walter is detached, sad, depressed and a total downer, The Beaver is lively, upbeat, positive, verbose, full of life and bright ideas. His wife, though clearly concerned, is still pleased that her husband is back. In a way. Kind of, and their youngest son thinks a beaver with a British accent attached to his dads arm is cool, like any five year old would think. But

his other boy, man… it looks like mental illness just runs in the family. The young man is self destructive, probably even more so than his father, he’s moody, disobedient, and not the most pleasant person to be around… but he still has a crush on the cheerleader (Jennifer Lawrence). Be he blind, stupid, dumb crippled or crazy, they all love the cheerleader. The cheerleader has issues too. Big ol’ Samsonite rolling bags full of issues.

But this is about Walter and his Beaver. And as it turns out, a talking Beaver on your arm isn’t necessarily a permanent cure for depression as the struggle between Walter Black and The Beaver escalates in the battle over Walter’s psyche. It’s not pretty.

One has to wonder, while watching director Jodie Foster’s movie ‘The Beaver’, where all the darkness in Ms. Foster’s storytelling style comes from. I don’t know if you saw her last film 1995’s ‘Home for the Holidays’, arguably the most depressing Christmas movie ever, but you would think that being a movie star one’s whole life would give someone a brighter outlook on things. I guess that ‘Taxi Driver’ experience was a son of gun. Dark or otherwise, our main complaint about Jodie Foster the film director is that she doesn’t make more movies because despite the fact that ‘The Beaver’ can be difficult to sit through at times, it is still one fine piece of cinema.

It took some nerve to cast Mel Gibson in the lead for this film, all things considered, and I’m sure the movie probably suffered a little financially for it, but from an artistic sense there probably aren’t a lot of actors that could’ve played Walter Black with the pain, vulnerability and edge in the way that Mel Gibson played Walter Black. You feel for this guy, and if you have any experience dealing with depression, you know how difficult it is deal with someone suffering from it. On one hand you just want to slap them and tell them to get it together, but if only it were that easy. Gibson captured all of that, and when the transformation to The Beaver came, as utterly ridiculous a plot device as that is, we were happy for him. We knew it wasn’t going to end well… it’s still a man with a talking puppet on his hand… but for a little while we were happy for him.

But this is where the movie gets more difficult to watch because we do have a good idea how it’s going to play out as the movie proceeds down a darker and darker path the longer it goes on. A man with a talking puppet on his arm is kind of funny and the movie is kind of funny, then it stops being funny. Completely.

‘The Beaver’ is a sad and poignant film about the effects that mental illness can have on a family, and Jodie Foster executes her film with precision and expertise. If the movie’s star hasn’t completely turned you against him, it is a fine film to visit.

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