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The Beaver movie poster

The Beaver: Movie Review

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Jodie Foster

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones, Riley Thomas Stewart
Released by: Summit Entertainment

In Short: Mel Gibson shines as the hopelessly depressed Walter Black who becomes revitalized by speaking through a beaver puppet.

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Mel Gibson Doing What He Does Best — Crazy

Just when you thought Hollywood had given up on Mel Gibson, he returns with an outstanding performance that makes filmgoers remember why he was once a huge box office draw. In this odd film, he plays Walter Black, a deeply depressed toy executive who has lost his grip on reality and becomes a shell of his former self. After his wife (played by the film’s director Jodie Foster) kicks him out of his own home, Walter hits a new low, but finds The Beaver — a puppet he begins speaking through which helps him to rediscover his life through new eyes.

For another actor, this gimmick could have been a disaster, but Gibson pulls it off flawlessly. Playing two characters is nothing new, but convincingly portraying different, yet equally crazy, aspects of the same psyche while only speaking through a furry hand puppet is impressive. While working with the puppet makes for a meaty role, it's as the reserved and depressed Walter where Gibson really shines. After all the public humiliations, the consensus surrounding Gibson's performance may be: “Mel Gibson playing a crazy person...that's not acting.” But Gibson actually loses himself in the role of Walter.

Riley Thomas Stewart and Mel Gibson in The Beaver Jennifer Lawrence and Anton Yelchin in The Beaver

The main sub-plot concerns Walter's son, Porter (Anton Yelchin). Convinced he is doomed to wind up crazy like his father, Porter obsessively tracks every similarity on a wall full of Post-Its and scams money from fellow students to finance a road trip where he plans to rid himself of these shared idiosyncrasies. He meets Norah (played by Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence), who has her own problems, and the developing relationship is both rocky and touching.

As Foster's third directorial effort (after “Home for the Holidays” and “Little Man Tate”), “The Beaver” leaves something to be desired. It is a lighthearted take on depression and mental illness, but tonally, it's a little flat. Overall, the film effectively takes a dark subject matter and makes it heartwarming, despite its offbeat nature. The credit for this goes to the screenplay, though. Written by first-time screenwriter Kyle Killen, the script won first place on the 2008 Blacklist survey as one of the best un-produced screenplays of the year. Every bit of dialogue and every story beat feels genuine and sincere. Despite the odd premise, “The Beaver” is tasteful, charming and heartbreaking.

Reviewed by Cara Trump


(Updated: 05/05/11 CT)

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