In recent years, Mel Gibson has been down, shall we say a rather dark and awkward path. After directing the religiously controversial film The Passion of the Christ and several drunken encounters and rants that offended pretty much everyone, the man just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. This however, has not prevented him from continuing to act which is news you may either hate or feel pretty nonchalant about. His latest film, the Jodie Foster-directed dramedy The Beaver is now out on Blu-ray and this subtle piece of cinema is actually worth checking out.
Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is a struggling toy company’s depressed CEO whose wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster), is fed up with him and kicks him out of the house. Walter, having hit rock bottom, attempts to commit suicide. Failing to do so, he soon comes across a beaver puppet in a local dumpster. Walter then comes up with a ridiculous yet highly effective form of therapy: using the hand puppet as a means to communicate (with an Australian accent, no less) around his depression, splitting Walter’s personality in two. His depressed actual self and the Beaver share the same body but are two different “beings” entirely.
The Beaver soon begins to take over Walter’s life with his concerned wife and coworkers gradually trying to accept his troubling behavior. Walter’s moody son Porter (Anton Yelchin), embarrassed by his disturbed father’s antics, tries to distance himself as he tries to get the attention of a fellow classmate, cynical cheerleader Norah (Jennifer Lawrence).
The cast of The Beaver truly gives it its wings. Mel Gibson manages to deliver a quirky and awesome performance as Walter, a tortured soul desperate to get his life back on track but too afraid to do so without the aid of his furry little “friend”. Jodie Foster does double duty here as director and actress and she too, turns in a solid performance as Meredith, Walter’s confused and annoyed spouse who is trying hard to understand her husband’s bizarre actions and desires to come to grips with his apparent insanity.
Young bloods Anton Yelchin (Charlie Bartlett) and Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) shine here as well as two high school students trying to escape their pasts and cope with their present state of affairs. They definitely have good chemistry and the scenes they share are nothing short of spectacular. These two actors know what they’re doing and it really shows through their performances.
This marks Jodie Foster’s third feature as a director (the first two being Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays) and she does a terrific job behind the camera. The shots and editing are subtle and precise,and the lighting is dim and washed out throughout most of the film, being symbolic of the dark themes presented in the picture. The tone of The Beaver concocts a pleasing mix of black comedy and human drama.
Even though Mel Gibson is probably one of Hollywood’s least likable stars right now, The Beaver is substantial proof that the middle-aged actor still has talent. Sure, he may be a racist and an alcoholic, but the man still has decent acting chops. Gibson’s portrayal of Walter seemed real and you feel definite sympathy towards him. The Beaver wasn’t too popular with audiences when it was released in theaters because of Gibson’s highly publicized negative behavior and that’s a downright shame because it really is a quality film. Perhaps, one day when the smoke clears from Gibson’s fiery past, this film will get the recognition it deserves because it certainly deserves it.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The bonus features for The Beaver are slim but serviceable. There is a feature-length audio commentary with Jodie Foster, two deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes making-of featurette entitled Everything Is Going to Be O.K. and finally, some trailers.