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Movie ReviewsRating: 4 of 5 yaps

The Beaver

How wonderfully unexpected “The Beaver” is. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, this daring and heartfelt film takes another astonishing turn.

The story of a wasted man who finds he can only talk through a furry hand puppet, it wears the clothes of a comedy, but there are sequences of the blackest moods imaginable. Audiences will be kept reeling, not knowing when to laugh and when to bask in the solemn weight of tragedy.

At the screening I attended, the same scene often produced the opposite reaction in different people. Normally, I cringe when people guffaw at what is clearly intended to be a serious moment, but with “The Beaver,” I didn’t mind because the movie’s appeal is centered in its ambiguity.

It’s hardly a perfect film. Surprisingly, because it’s directed by a woman (Jodie Foster), the female characters seem underwritten, existing mostly to facilitate the emotional journey of the males in their lives. And the film makes a sudden left turn near the end that I know is going to alienate half the audience.

All I can say is it was a thrilling experience to go into a movie without any notion of where it was headed. In an era of safe filmmaking with stories and characters tied in uniformly neat bows, “The Beaver” operates outside the box … and then it kicks the box down the street.

The film’s unruly success is anchored by its wayward star, Mel Gibson. I know, we’re all legally required to hate Mel these days because some hateful stuff spills out of him in unguarded moments. To quote Captain Renault from “Casablanca,” I’m shocked, shocked to discover that human frailties exist among the above-the-title folks.

Other Hollywood icons have abused their children, like Joan Crawford, or drugged and sodomized a 13-year-old, like Roman Polanski. Even Charlie Chaplin had an insatiable desire for underage girls (even if he often ended up marrying them). Yet I still watch their movies and am transported above the sulfurous bile of their earthly failings.

In Gibson’s case, his recent notoriety actually ends up helping the movie. The screenplay — an original (in the truest sense of that word) by rookie Kyle Killen — starts right off with Walter Black (Gibson) already down in his pit of despair. We don’t really know how he got to the bottom, but Gibson’s troubles act as a shorthand for the self-loathing descent he obviously experienced.

Walter is the CEO of Jerry Co., a floundering toy manufacturer. He cannot speak to his wife, Meredith (Foster), or their sons, young Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) and high school senior Porter (Anton Yelchin). Nor can he really summon the energy to do anything but sleep.

Finally kicked out by Meredith, he discovers a frayed old beaver hand puppet in a dumpster and puts it on. Awaking from a stupor the next morning, he finds the puppet talking to him in a low-rent British accent (I thought of Ray Winstone). He introduces himself as the Beaver and tells Walter he’s here “to save your miserable life.”

Soon, Walter and the Beaver have reunited with the family, and everything’s hunky-dory again. Meredith is a little put off by the puppet at first, but when Walter produces a card from his psychiatrist authorizing it as therapy, she’s thrilled to have her husband back again.

Not so much Porter, who so despises his dad he compiles a list of the similarities he shares with him, which he keeps as a list of shame. Porter has a side business writing term papers for classmates and is gobsmacked when the cheerleader valedictorian (Jennifer Lawrence) taps him to craft a graduation speech for him.

I don’t want to give away any more because the film’s serendipity is its main charm. “The Beaver” always kept me guessing, and even though it ventures into places some people may not like, I respect it as an exercise in genuinely brave moviemaking.

4 Yaps

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17 Responses to “The Beaver”

  1. Chacidy says:

    That’s a mold-breaker. Great thinnkig!

  2. Kim D. says:

    I read the review and plan to see this movie.

  3. Adam V says:

    I planned on avoiding this movie simply because Mel was it it. After reading the review I kick myself for not seeing it yet. I look forward to reading a lot more of the reviews!!! Thanks!!

  4. Carol says:

    I saw the movie even though I have no respect for Mel Gibson as he is an anti-semite as is his father. I was surprised to see him perfect for the role. It was a depressing movie and couldn’t understand why people were laughing at his depressing lifestyle and how the Beaver helped make him a temporary success in his toy business and his loving son. He is pathetic and maybe there is some reality in his life. Jody Foster acted and direction was very good. I would have only given it 3 stars.

  5. JOHN MOJZUK says:

    Maybe the world would be a better place if we all had a puppet. Would I have to take the blame for what the puppet said or would the puppet have to take the blame for me. Maybe a mime would be best for me. BUT – the beaver did work for Mel.

  6. Ginger says:

    Cannot wait to see this. Everyone has there opinions but for me, I believe that Mel has been ostracized in a way that other bad boys (who have easily done just as terrible things) don’t seem to be. He is a fantastic talent, has great screen presence and if he wishes to make more movies, I’ll be there to watch them.

  7. Ryan Kellner says:

    Playing a deeply emotionally disturbed individual… Typecasting for Mel? Still looks great!

  8. wilkolence says:

    im looking forward to this. it’s been a while since ive seen a mel gibson film. depite his bahvior, i was actually disapointed to hear his cameo in the hangover 2 was taken out. oh well. hopefully this will be the start of a comeback for mel.

  9. Beth Hoban says:

    I am struggling whether to go see this because Mel and his issues. It does sound interesting. I just don’t care for Mel Gibson and his views.

  10. I really enjoyed The Beaver with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster so sorry the kids had to suffer but isn’t that the way it is in real life? regardless I believe he loved his family in his own way and they loved him .

  11. Bliss says:

    Wow, this sounds freaky good. I think casting an actor that is clearly down and out for the role of Walter will do nothing but help! It just works! I am looking forward to seeing the movie.

  12. Nik Browning says:

    I’m really disappointed that I missed out on the preview. My favorite films include protagonists who change their realities to suit their needs. To help filter some psychopathic logic to help the define that overall "purpose of man". Fight Club, Memento, Lars And the Real Girl, and, (to an extent) Eternal Sunshine and Being John Malkovich.

    The philospophical questions are nothing new to film. Go back to The Razor’s Edge and Lost Horizon or anything Bergman. But to add this struggle with some characters who can really jump the fence into an interesting insanity… that’s a good movie.

  13. Ali Dootson says:

    Not really the image of a movie that I was expecting, although sounds like an interesting ride. I like Mel Gibson, although his Scottish accent is a little iffy, I usually enjoy his movies. Don’t be haters, I’d like to give this movie a chance. Why not!

  14. Christopher Baker says:

    I look forward to seeing this movie. It seems too weird to be bad.

  15. Dustin says:

    I have been looking forward to this movie for a long time. I read about the script on the Black List a few years ago and that really got me intrigued, then I believe it was Steve Carell they originally cast in the Mel Gibson role which seemed like the perfect fit. Once Mel Gibson was on board and then all of his voice messages started leaking out my interest went through the roof. I’m also a huge fan of Anton Yelchin. I think he is great in just about everything he does. I saw his movie Like Crazy (also starring Jennifer Lawerence) at Sundance this year and thought his performance was outstanding. Not to mention how big of a Charlie Bartlett fan I am. Anyways, really looking forward to this movie and have very high expectations. Thanks for the early review!

  16. Joe Shearer says:

    Wow…Wally and the Beav. Wonder if that’s a coincidence. I’m sorry I missed the screening the other night. Might have to take the wife to see it!

  17. Zoe says:

    I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing this after reading an article about it in Empire; a British film mag. I have always liked Mel Gibson, especially in What Women Want. After the antics of Charlie Sheen I think his failings seem somewhat watered down. A strange premise for a movie but some originality is welcome amid the many sequels and remakes around at the moment. Can’t wait.