Friday, May 20, 2011

THE BEAVER (2011)

Written by Kyle Killen


Directed by Jodie Foster


Where & When: Laemmle's Playhouse, Pasadena, CA.  May 17, 2011 1:00PM


I will say that I had zero interest in ever seeing another Mel Gibson film but I did go and see "The Beaver" but that was mainly because I am a fan of Jodie Foster and have enjoyed the two previous films that she has directed. While this film has some bright moments, it is uneven and never fully realized.

Walter Black (Gibson) is a very depressed family man who finds that all he can manage to do is sleep so he doesn't have to face the world. His wife, Meredith (Foster) is so fed up that he's no longer seeking help that she kicks him out of the house. They have two sons, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart), their youngest, who keeps to himself to deal with the turmoil at home and Porter (Anton Yelchin), a typical, angry teenager who doesn't want anything to do with is father and is afraid he will grow up to be like him.

To complicate his life further, Walter is the owner of a toy company that is facing bankruptcy so, he decides that he has had enough. He plans to get very drunk and end his life. While discarding all of belongings, Walter finds a beaver hand puppet in the dumpster and decides to take it with him.

After failing to hang himself, he decides to jump out of the hotel balcony. He almost goes over when the puppet calls out to stop him. Known simply as "the Beaver" and sounding a bit like Michael Caine, he tells Walter to snap out of it and demands that he take charge of his life. Walter is clearly suffering from a nervous breakdown but by using this puppet as his voice, it helps him find his way, regain his courage and the strength to face the world again.

Walter returns home and even after being given a card explaining the hand puppet, Meredith doesn't know what to make of this but this helps bring his young son out of his shell. Henry happily accepts the Beaver while he and his father are able to connect again. Meredith notices the change in her husband, with him more like his old self so she is willing to deal with the puppet for a while, with them eventually reconnecting as a couple but Porter wants no part of his father's lunacy.

Meredith soon realises how unbalanced her husband has truly become and forces him to choose between his family or the Beaver which leads to Walter making a very tragic decision.

There is also a subplot involving Porter who makes a lot of money writing term papers for his fellow high school students when the beautiful and brainy cheerleader (Oscar nominee, Jennifer Lawrence) approaches him to write her commencement speech for some silly reason. They fall for each other and she has her own family issues but this whole addition of a teenage love story is not needed, not particularly interesting and feels out of place.

"The Beaver" starts off fine but as the film progresses, it begins to unravel and lose focus and by the end, we are left with a seemingly happy ending with no real explanation on how we got there. There is no clear idea of what type of film this is (dark comedy, family drama, farce?) or even a clear understanding of what the message is suppose to be.

While I admire Ms Foster greatly as an actress but she has completely miscast herself in the role of the frustrated wife. She never seems fully comfortable or committed in playing this woman and the performance suffers because of this. It also doesn't help that she and Mr. Gibson are never really believable as a couple and while I'm sure putting herself in the film helped finance the project but it would have been much better to have cast another actress so she could have put all of her energy on directing. In order for "The Beaver" to work properly, it required finding just the right tone and balance which would be difficult for even a seasoned film maker and with this being only the third film Ms Foster has directed, perhaps this project was more challenging than she may have realised. Ms Foster's strength, not surprisingly, is working with the actors and she elicits really good performances from all involved.

It's clear that due to the presence of Mr.Gibson and all of his personal baggage has negatively impacted the potential box office for the film, which is too bad because "The Beaver" is watchable and he actually gives a very good, solid performance. Mr. Gibson has shown that he has been quite capable in playing these damaged characters that are close to the breaking point which we really saw for the first time in the first "Lethal Weapon" film and later in his own 1993 directorial debut "The Man Without A Face", perhaps because these dark emotions are probably not that difficult for him to tap in to but also because many had tend to overlook his abilities as an actor, most especially at the beginning of his career because of his looks and just simply wanted to dismiss him as a movie-star.

I really wanted to like "The Beaver" and while I greatly appreciated the attempt to break out of the safe and conventional confines of American film making but it never properly comes together in to a satisfying cinematic experience.