UK Edition DVD
DVD | Blu-ray (U.S.)
Directed by Jodie Foster
Starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Lawrence, Anton Yelchin
Release date: October 10, 2011 (UK)
Let’s be honest; The Beaver is an incredibly hard sell. It’s about a man (Mel Gibson directed by Jodie Foster) who is so incredibly depressed that everything in his life – wife, kids, job – falls away and the only way he can cope is by communicating through a hand puppet in the shape of a wild animal. There is a worry that Jodie Foster‘s Beaver is unlikely to appeal to many. Add in a leading man whose most popular release in the last couple of years was courtesy of an answering machine and, well, it’s likely to go down like a fart in the bath. But here goes.
Walter Black (Gibson) is depressed. He has tried music therapy, self flagellation and hypnosis to reinvigorate his mind but all he wants to do is sleep. Walter’s illness has taken over him and bleeds into his life: his toy company is suffering badly, as is his family – especially wife Meredith (Jodie Foster directing herself) and oldest son Porter (an excellent performance by Anton Yelchin). He leaves the family home and finds the titular Beaver in a dumpster.
His depression culminates one drunken night when Walter tries to take his own life – and fails pathetically. Then during a second attempt The Beaver starts to talk to him. Armed (quite literally) with a furry puppet with a Cockney accent and a mouth like a tourettic trooper, Walter’s life begins to improve. But it becomes clear that Walter is beginning to fade and it may be impossible to bring him back.
It was a bold move for Foster to direct this particular story (from a script by newcomer Kyle Killen) as her directing comeback. Depression is not a subject which gets looked at in this way too often. Mostly the story goes: depressed – get laid – happily ever after. I have rarely seen a better example of depression in movies and the real affects on the families of that person. Foster sets a good tone and draws great performances from Yelchin and Gibson (sadly not her own).
Ultimately The Beaver is a comedy-drama about love and how far you would go to help and stand by the people you love at their most difficult time. Despite Walter’s personality change, Meredith fights for her husband. Walter’s oldest son Porter is hoping that he never turns out like his dad and is appalled by their shared characteristics. Porter eventually begins to understand and even love his father.
It tries hard to be a cool indie flick but with Foster and Gibson involved it never reaches the levels of intimacy it strives for. What is most peculiar is how easily everyone goes along with Walter’s “˜device’. Sure, his family and friends do love him but they – and his work colleagues – accept the Beaver, talking with and to it too easily. That is largely brushed under the carpet.
The Beaver is weird, at times uncomfortable to watch, often contrived and pretentious. Despite these flaws, Killen and Foster keep a level of interest and empathy high and keep you wondering just what will happen to Walter and Porter. The end – much like the film – is bizarrely satisfying.
It’s quality not quantity with the DVD extras: An interesting Audio Commentary with director Jodie Foster; a couple of useless Deleted Scenes with optional commentary from Foster; Everything Is Going To Be O.K. featurette again with fascinating insights into The Beaver from Foster, and an interview with an unhappy looking Mel Gibson about the movie.