The Beaver * * * *
Director: Jodie Foster.
Screenplay: Kyle Killen.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones, Riley Thomas Stewart.
By now everyone will have heard of Mel Gibson’s real life troubles involving drunken rants and abusive behaviour. Some would even have thought that it could have led to his career being finished. Despite these personal problems though, he has bounced back with the perfect acting vehicle.
Walter Black (Gibson) was once a successful businessman with a happy family who now finds himself clinically depressed and ready to end it all. One night he finds a discarded puppet beaver which when it ends up on his hand, takes over his life and begins to turn his fortunes around.
First off, it’s hard to forget about Gibson’s personal antics and in a lot of ways, it has a major bearing on the film itself. That being said though, his performance is mesmerising and the best he has delivered in his career so far. It’s an award calibre show but will no doubt be scorned by the Academy. This is a film that has emotional and dramatic weight but suffers slightly in the strange feeling that there should be humour. For some reason, when a puppet is involved you expect hilarity but this is not that type of film and credit must go to Gibson for his restraint. There’s no mistaking the serious depth this film carry’s or his commited performance. It’s a sensitive exploration of mental health with a premise that, at first, sounds ridiculous and laughable but is actually heartfelt and delicately handled by director Jodie Foster. The sub-plot involving Anton Yelchin’s intellectual speech writer and Jennifer Lawrence’s cheerleading graffiti artist is a little strained and hard to accept and Foster’s bland struggling wife is very underwritten also, but when focused on Gibson’s clinical depression it’s a marvellous film. Considering this was originally planned as a Steve Carell or Jim Carrey show, you can easily see how this could have been. I’m glad they didn’t go down that road and even more pleased that they serendipitously picked the perfect actor, at the perfect time, in a perfect role and Foster deserves most of that credit for banking on her troubled co-star.
An odd but thoroughly engaging little film that’s affected by the leading actor’s personal problems and ability to transcend them and face the role of a lifetime. Gibson’s demons certainly overshadow the film and I suppose we’ll never know for sure, whether it would have been better with, or without them. I sway towards them being a benefit.