Synopsis: Plagued by his own demons, Walter Black was once a successful toy executive and family man who now suffers from depression. No matter what he tries, Walter can’t seem to get himself back on trackâ¦until a beaver hand puppet enters his life.
Release Date: May 6, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Mel Gibson is The Beaver. He is also Walter Black, who suffers from a severe depression that consumes everything in his life. When his wife Meredith (played by Jodie Foster, who also directs) throws him out of the home they share with their two sons, he happens to find a beaver puppet in a dumpster. After a failed suicide attempt, he slips the toy onto his left hand and suddenly, the beaver becomes the Beaver, the only way that Walter can communicate with the world outside his head. Speaking through the Beaver, Walter manages to reconnect with his wife and youngest son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart, Young Barney from T.V.’s “How I Met Your Mother”) and regain the faith of the employees at his company. The only person not convinced is his oldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin, Chekov from the Star Trek reboot), a guy who makes money writing papers for his fellow high school students. Not only does Porter not trust Walter, he will do everything he can to not end up like him, even though he is just as unstable. When the family has had enough of the puppet, Walter has to choose between the real world and the Beaver.
The Beaver feels like Jodie Foster is doing her old pal Mel Gibson a favor. Gibson has had a rough few years in his off-screen life, and Foster (who has been friends with Gibson since the pair worked together in 1994 on Maverick) seems to be helping him out by giving him a role that he can sink his teeth into. In the film, Gibson is a far cry from his Sexiest Man Alive days. In this movie, Gibson looks like Gibson looks now — haggard, drunk and totally believable as a borderline schizophrenic. One thing is for sure — The Beaver is not a puppet show. It is about as dark as a movie can be and still garner a PG-13 rating. It is not the feel-good hit of the summer. Once the cute puppet is stripped away, the viewer is left with an unsettling look at the core and effects of mental illness. That being said, it is a very entertaining film, even funny at times. The only problem is that the audience feels strange laughing. For example, the suicide attempt scene that occurs right before Walter starts talking to/through the beaver is absurd in a surrealistic way. After trying to hang himself, he walks around a hotel room with a shower rod hanging from his neck. The image is comical, but the viewer still feels sympathy for the character. It’s amusing, but it still feels wrong to chuckle. Although the content is dealt with humorously, The Beaver is a tongue-in-cheek movie that people are afraid to laugh at.
The Beaver is written by Kyle Killen. Remember that name. He’s a relative newcomer to screenwriting (all he’s really written is a couple of episodes of “Lone Star”) but he has a bright future ahead of him. In The Beaver, he deftly explores identity and sanity themes and does it seamlessly. For example, he doesn’t have to compare Walter’s talking through the puppet to Porter’s writing papers for classmates. Once the connection between father and son is established, the viewer can make the correlation. Killen weaves his interconnected storylines in a way that seems to be unrelated, yet they all come together in the end. On the surface, The Beaver is about one man’s struggle with depression and insanity, but on a deeper level, it’s about finding ourselves and the ability to show it.
The Beaver is an extremely character driven movie, and it is perfectly cast. Mel Gibson is flawless as Walter Black, and also as the Beaver. And yes, they are two very different characters. Gibson makes Walter and the Beaver different enough to tell apart, even though the lines are being spoken by the same actor. In doing so, he does a lot more than just give the Beaver his Australian accent from The Road Warrior. He gives the Beaver his own distinct speech patterns and mannerisms. The result is that the audience actually believes that Walter needs the Beaver.
Jodie Foster is amazing (as usual) as Meredith, a woman who loves Walter but is at the end of her rope with him. Anton Yelchin is great, too, as Porter, the kid who is deathly afraid of becoming his father, even though he already has more in common with him than he wants to admit. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) does a good job, as well, as Norah, the girl who tries to get through to Porter. The performances of all of the actors are first rate, and that is what lifts The Beaver from a good film to a great film.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jodie FosterAnn Ruark
- Producer(s): Kyle Killen
- Screenwriter(s): Mel Gibson (Walter Black)Jodie Foster (Meredith Black)Anton Yelchin (Porter Black)
- Story: Jennifer Lawrence (Norah)
- Cast: Riley Thomas Stewart (Henry Black)Zachary Booth (Jared)Michael Rivera (Hector) Lynzee KlingmanHagen BogdanskiMark Friedberg
- Cinematographer: Marcelo Zarvos
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA