Walter Black ('Mel Gibson') is depressed and sleeps most of the day. It's driving his family crazy, and his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) kicks him out. Walter starts carrying a beaver puppet and tries to commit suicide (unsuccessfully). He uses the puppet to talk to himself, trying to bolster his spirits, and is trying to rebuild his life. Through the beaver, the family begins to learn about Walter's history and problems, and as he continues rebuilding, the beaver shows us all a way to cope. Written by
The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2008 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. See more »
This is a picture of Walter Black, a hopelessly depressed individual. Somewhere inside him is a man who fell in love. Who started a family. Who ran a successful company. That man has gone missing. No matter what he's tried, and he's tried everything, Walter can't seem to bring him back. It's as if he's died, but hasn't had the good sense to take his body with him. So mostly what he does is sleep.
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Mel Gibson turns in one the year's best performances!
I'm sure everyone has heard of the problems that Mel Gibson has had recently. Hell, they probably know more about his personal life and what happened with him before they've even heard about this movie. That's a shame, because this is a pretty good movie. Granted, it's not anything groundbreaking --- but it is a fine drama about a man who tries to find himself before he loses himself completely. Some very good acting and directing (from Jodie Foster, no less) make this one worth watching.
Walter Black (Gibson) is suffering from depression. So bad, in fact, that his wife, Meredith (Foster, pulling double duty here) has to throw him out so as not to inflict his sickness on their kids: Porter (Yelchin) and Henry (Stewart). The depression isn't only affecting his home-life, it's also affecting his work as well. He's the CEO of a major toy company, courtesy of his father. The Vice President of the company (Cherry Jones) is more qualified, but Walter inherited the position after his father's death. While throwing away some boxes from the trunk of his car, he comes across a beaver puppet that someone tossed aside into a dumpster. He picks it up and takes it with him to the hotel where he plans to drink himself into a stupor and then hang himself. The next morning, Walter awakens to a gruff voice (his own, in fact, but with an English accent) and a puppet staring him in the face, known only as The Beaver. He informs Walter that he's there to save his life... and in the beginning, The Beaver does just that. While Walter finds new life and purpose again through The Beaver, his son Porter has his own little dilemma. Firstly, he writes term papers for fellow classmates for money and the class valedictorian, Norah (Lawrence) hires him to write her graduation speech and secondly, he's afraid he's turning into his father, so he writes down all the similarities as to not duplicate them, because he despises the man.
The Beaver does move a bit slow -- but then again, it's a serious movie about depression, I didn't expect car bombs and people getting pistol-whipped. Jodie Foster doesn't let us linger too long in one area before whisking us away to another story line -- it's a technique that allows us to follow a few different stories so we're not bored, so we don't count down the minutes till the end. I think she does a masterful job of telling the main story without it getting too silly and doesn't play the puppet for laughs. It would be a different story had she wanted to film a comedy, but she keeps everything in a nice balance with some serious storytelling with extremely light injections of humor.
The reason to watch The Beaver is Mel Gibson, I'm afraid. I think it's one of the most daring and boldest roles of his career. Had he not been a Hollywood asshat early on this year or the last part of last year, he just might be looking at an Academy Award nomination. He makes it seem that The Beaver does have his own personality and that it's a separate character altogether. He gives the film's best performances and it's also one of the year's greatest. Foster does just fine as his wife -- there's not much for her to do in front of the camera, but it's nice to see her all the same. Yelchin and Lawrence also crank out some good performances, but nothing particularly floored me with what they brought to the table.
I would have liked to see a bit more resolved by the movie's end, but it wasn't so left unopened that it made me made, either. Even if you have a problem with Mel and just can't stand the guy because of his off-screen antics, you should give this one a try. I'm not telling you to like the guy, because as I said before, things happen where we either like the person or not, no amazing performance is going to change my view about how I feel about a person, that's for sure. But... that being said... I challenge you to find a better performance by a lead actor this year so far.
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Final Grade: B
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