The Beaver (2011)

17 June 2011

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Two-time Academy Award® winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with two-time Academy Award® winner Mel Gibson in The Beaver - an emotional story about a man on a journey to re-discover his family and re-start his life.

Plagued by his own demons, Walter Black was once a successful toy executive and family man who now suffers from depression.  No matter what he tries, Walter can't seem to get himself back on track...until a beaver hand puppet enters his life.

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“At times I found myself thoroughly enjoying it, whilst at other points wanting to jump out of a window”

It appears that the general consensus with Jodie Foster’s ‘The Beaver’, is that it’s a real love or hate film. It seems to have won over many a critic whilst disturbing the rest. I, however, completely defy that logic by simply thinking that it is, quite simply, just okay.

I anticipated the film greatly, convinced that I was either going to have a new DVD to add my Christmas List, or a film so bad that I would desperately try and persuade people that annoy me to go and spend a tenner on it – but instead I was a little disappointed as the film had its brilliant and unique aspects, along with the totally awful ones.

So let’s go through the pros and cons, starting with the latter. It’s absurd. It’s telling the story of a troubled and depressed father of two, Walter Black, in what has become Mel Gibson’s comeback role following a string of unfortunate and sordid situations that the formerly appreciated actor had got himself into.

Walter is head of a failing toy manufacture company, and has been kicked out of his home by his wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster). Oh and his son Porter (Anton Yelchin) doesn’t like him either. Walter then, on a drunken escapade, finds and quite miraculously befriends a hand puppet in the form of a Beaver.

In a somewhat ludicrous turn of events, he decides that the Beaver will be his sole form of communication from that point onwards, and allow him a voice that he had longed for and suffered for when battling depression. As a result he gains more confidence, his company starts to regain success and his marriage is back on track, whilst his testing relationship with his son takes a bit more hard work and effort to resurrect.

My problem with the film is that it takes itself too seriously. What is essentially an over-sensational storyline, this could have been one of those silly films that’s almost so bad it gains a cult following and, as a result, becomes a sort of success (Snakes on a Plane, for example). But the Beaver, instead of playing up to it’s ludicrousness, instead tries to be too profound and insightful, and in a strange way could have benefited from being a bit more rubbish.

Also, I was greatly put-off by the accent of choice that Walter chose for his Beaver. If the film wasn’t already silly enough – for Gibson to play the part of the Beaver in a Dick Van Dyke style cockney accent is just highly unnecessary.

As for the positives - it’s absurd. It’s different to so many other features I’ve seen and I admire Foster for attempting such a film. It’s unique and certainly makes you think – it’s not one that escapes your mind on the journey home, put it that way. And, as much as it pains me to say it, I actually thought that Gibson (bar the Cockney/Australian accent he attempted) was really good.

Playing the part of a disheartened and disturbed individual who seeks refuge in the form of a hand puppet isn’t, I imagine, the easiest role to play. But Gibson gets it spot on. He just manages to capture a sense of vulnerability and inanity that allows for him to be capable of such a peculiar act.

So there we have it, what is arguably set to be the most talked about film of the summer, whether that be through your own voice or that of a random pet animal (which hopefully won’t have the misfortune of having such a euphemistic name), my view is that the Beaver is a bit of a must-see. Despite the fact I was indifferent to it and at times found myself thoroughly enjoying it, whilst at other points wanting to jump out of a window, I think that for such an array or emotions to take place and the fact that you could well be one of those people who either love it or hate it, it might just be worth a trip to the cinema to find out.

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