the kind of movie you look forward to all year. Whether or not director and star Jodie Foster's film actually live up to the potential of its logline has turned out to be more of a moot point. At different points in production, this Black-Listed script was touted as a vehicle for Jim Carrey or Steve Carell, but it arrives on-screen with Mel Gibson in the starring role as Walter Black.
Walter is the CEO of a faltering toy company and a devoted family man, who happens to be suffering from a deeply debilitating depression. On the verge of suicide, he comes up with the demented idea of wearing a beaver hand puppet he discovered in a skip, and using it as his mouthpiece to the rest of the world. And against all expectations, his life improves exponentially.
To me at least, The Beaver is too much of many different things.It's also a very strange viewing experience. Actually, even stranger than it sounds, because of the film's major subplot. It concerns Walter's son, played by Anton Yelchin, who dreads becoming his father. It's not without reason- there's a family history of depression and mental illness, and the motivated high-schooler actively and obsessively tries to root out behavioural tics that he's picked up from Walter.
The teen anguish movie is actually quite mundane in tone, or at least compared to the main attraction. This should either be a teen coming-of-age drama about a boy who doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps, or a film in which Mel Gibson decides to talk through a beaver puppet. And because it's non-committal with Mel Gibson talking through a beaver puppet, it's harder to let some of the implausibilities slide in that part of the film than it might have been.
And so as good as the younger performers are, they lend nothing but a tonal weirdness to a film that's already got quite a weird premise. That this subplot takes up so much screentime suggests a tendency away from Gibson sometime in the midst of production. It's to the credit of Gibson that after ten minutes of watching it, you couldn't imagine either Carrell or Carrey playing Walter. His performance is powerful and more restrained than you would think, all things considered. The ingredients are there for this to be quite a serious and earnest inspection of mental illness and relationships, but Foster never quite nails it down.
It's not the surreal comedy that the trailers or posters seem to suggest, but neither is it entirely serious. At one point, it even veers off into horror territory as Walter's plushy social prosthesis becomes more sinister. The weirdest thing by far is that the left-field conclusion of the film was something I predicted going in. What's weird about that though, is that I was kidding. And what's so unsettling about the film is that there's no way of telling if Foster is kidding too.
The Beaver is now showing in select cinemas nationwide.
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I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.