The Beaver – Review

I’m well aware of the jokes that can be made about the title, as well as Mel Gibson’s personal troubles, but I’m not going to talk about any of that.  I’m just going to review this as a film.

The Beaver is about a middle-aged man suffering from depression for no apparent reason.  He’s got a job, family, house…it’s just not satisfying to him.  When things can’t get worse, he spontaneously starts interacting with the world through a beaver hand puppet.  And for some crazy reason, he seems to start to get better.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOSOWNS3jts

The idea of talking through a beaver puppet is inherently silly.  Yet this is a dramatic movie, and the silly concept is treated with just the right tone to make it seem realistic, or at least plausible.  For a recent similar movie, see Lars and the Real Girl, about a man who pretends a mannequin is his real girlfriend.  It was a very affecting movie, despite the concept.  And “The Beaver” manages a similar tightrope, making something so zany come across as moving.

Mel Gibson (the actor) is great.   He’s two different people with and without the puppet.  The transformation is undeniable.  He even has a 3rd character, because the Beaver is a separate personality from both his normal self and his depressed self.  The puppet really comes alive from all the motion and the voice that Gibson gives it.

There’s a great subplot with his son, played by Anton Yelchin, and a girl at school played by Jennifer Lawrence (soon to be Mystique in X-Men: First Class).  It’s pretty remarkable that what originally seemed like a secondary plot is equally as compelling to me as the main characters.  Yelchin has been good in everything I’ve ever seen him in, and it’s nice to see Jennifer Lawrence follow up Winter’s Bone with another strong performance.  Gives me more hope for X-Men than January Jones does.

Jodie Foster directs and co-stars.  I’m not sure what to look for when evaluating direction, but as I mentioned before, the tone of the movie is spot-on.  Acknowledging the silliness at times, but never being a silly movie, it seems to know just where it’s going.  And where it goes surprised me.  I assumed it would end up like a lot of other independent movies, but this one has more guts than most and genuinely impressed me.

I know a lot of people will simply refuse to see this because of Gibson, or think such a weird idea isn’t worth their $10 ticket.  If you’re one of those people, that’s fine.  That’s your choice.   I do hope, though, that you’ll at least give it a chance on DVD.  And I hope that anyone who’s looking for an anti-blockbuster this summer will check it out.  It’s well worth it.

The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, opens in theatres nationwide May 20th.

Ryan S. Davis

I love board games, thrill rides and travel. I'm happy to watch and review all kinds of movies, from mainstream blockbusters to art house indies. As a Warner Bros. employee, I'm privileged with a glimpse of Hollywood many don't see, but my opinions here are my own and not representative of the company.

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