The Beaver is a film I told myself that I would not be taking in. The previews never drew me in, in fact the whole concept seemed novel but off. However, boredom on a Sunday afternoon, in possession of a free ticket, I headed the brief trek over to the theater to see if my initial judgment would be incorrect. I said to myself that perhaps The Beaver would be one of those films that wound up taking you by surprise.
Before I go any deeper into this review, I'd like to say I am so glad I didn't pay to see this film. This was tough for me to write, as I typically find something positive to say about a film. This is not because I want to be that positive reviewer, but generally each film has enough redeeming qualities to makeup for its lackluster ones.
That all said I have a couple more disclaimers to offer. Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson are not two of my favorites. I fully understand both are well regarded in Hollywood, and I can see why. Foster was tremendous in Silence of the Lambs and Contact, as was Gibson in Braveheart, and even the Lethal Weapon films. Yet for the latter I still say Danny Glover made those films.
For me, they are the type of stars that do shine, but never merit watching on the basis of their abilities alone. Most of their films I see because of a plot interest or another actor's involvement.
The Beaver is about Walter Black(Gibson) who is severely depressed, and that depression has taken over his life. He is told to leave the home he shares with his wife, Meredith(Foster) and their two children, the oldest, Porter, played by Anton Yelchin.
On his way to his motel, Walter stops off for a bevy of alcohol. To make room for the liquor, he removes some personal effects and throws them in a dumpster. During this moment he finds a Beaver puppet atop the trash. Why he took this puppet isn't really explained, and quite frankly doesn't make much sense. He's going to the hotel intent on committing suicide, so there's really no use for a beaver puppet, and the puppet doesn't even "talk" to him until his second attempt at suicide. The whole notion seemed contrived.
I'd like to make a brief side note here. I was re-watching Elizabethtown last night and couldn't help see a glaring similarity with this film. Early in Elizabethtown, Orlando Bloom's character is ready to kill himself. He throws his possessions near a dumpster. In The Beaver, we see Gibson throw some of his items in a dumpster. Bloom's character is saved by his sister's call, informing him of his father's death. In the Beaver, Gibson's character is saved, first by a broken shower rod, but for good when this puppet "speaks' to him. Not making any indictments, just pointing our a coincidence I noticed between the two films.
Walter then becomes one with the Beaver. Everything seems like it's going great. Seemingly, with the help of his Beaver pal, he gets his professional and personal lives back on track. But something just isn't right, yep, he's unable to do anything without the Beaver. His previous inabilities haven't gone anywhere, the've just been transferred. He now can do nothing without the Beaver, in fact in his mind, he's not doing anything at all, it's all the Beaver, all the time.
For those of you still wanting to see this film, I'll let you see for yourselves how it turns out. Just don't be surprised, because I doubt you will, and don't say you weren't warned.
There are a few positive things though. One being Anton Yelchin, who I thought did the best job of acting. His character is torn between the fear he'll become his father. He's also trying to win the heart of a girl, who also has baggage issues of her own. I felt he took ownership of the role, and it showed on screen.
The main thing I'd like to give credit to The Beaver for, is dramatizing what a serious problem depression is. I am fully aware that depression is much more recognized today than it was just ten or fifteen years ago, but I've often felt many people still downplay the effect it can have, not only to the person, but to his family as well.
Depression can overwhelm you, to the point, which the film did a nice job portraying, of giving up on everyone who cares for you, giving up on yourself, on life in general. It shows how there comes a point when the depressed grows tired of doctors and pills. It clearly shows how sleep can become the only comfort in their world.
While I applaud The Beaver for it's pushing depression back into the mainstream, I don't applaud anything else about this film. To learn more about depression there are plenty of other films, but I would recommend checking out the numerous websites available and the information they provide.
To recap my disappointments with The Beaver:
The acting of two well-respected stars. Gibson tried, but at times his performance seemed exaggerated and almost comedic in nature.
I can hardly blame Foster as she did her best with the role she had to play. But I can blame her for the directorial effort. She should have noticed the film's many flaws while filming, even before.
You might be saying I'm being too hard on them. I can see that as a valid point. Yet I would then mention that they are both highly regarded in the industry, and when you are of their stature, they need to make their roles better than perhaps they were written. But perhaps you would be correct, as I may be underestimating how poorly the characters were drawn.
There were as mentioned earlier contrived and/or cliched moments.
A. Walter taking the Beaver from the dumpster
B. Porter's love interest conveniently having emotional baggage
C. The leeway the Jerry Co. employees and VP gave "The Beaver"
D. The way Jerry Co's sales skyrocketed after the Beaver was on TV
E. The way Jerry Co's sales went to clearance later in the film
F. The resolution
Anyhow I can't really complain too much, seeing I saw the film for nothing. And I can't say I was surprised, seeing I didn't really want to see the film. To end this review, I'll ask that if you do decide to go see The Beaver, let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessment.