Quick Hit: A dark, delightful comedy about depression and fatherhood that tugs at your heart strings while making you forget that Mel Gibson is a misogynistic, anti-Semite.
There are few times I feel the need to describe a film’s premise in more than a sentence. Sometimes though, the story is so off-the-wall that there is really no escaping this convention of movie reviewing. The Beaver is a film that is as crazy as it sounds. A father and executive, Walter Black (Mel Gibson), has fallen down into the depths of depression. He has tried all the tricks and miracle fixes, tried to find himself with the hippies, and tried medication. But he just can’t shake his funk. His world seems to have hit rock bottom when his wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster) kicks him out, leaving his two boys without a father figure.
And indeed, he shows how far down he is. At a rundown liquor shop, Walter purchases a box of liquor before seeing something in the trash. Inside the trash is a puppet; specifically, Walter finds a beaver puppet. After inexplicably retrieving the puppet, Walter retreats to his hotel room and attempts twice to commit suicide, before the TV drops on his head to end the scene.
Allow me to take a moment here to reflect on the first point I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH. The Beaver is a comedy that comes from a dark, dark place. Depression is a serious affliction that many people deal with. And one of the beautiful things about The Beaver is that it is able to show scenes of this while still being hilarious. I have never before laughed at a scene of suicide, but this movie got me to, and I didn’t feel bad about it.
After waking up the next day, Mel proceeds to have a conversation with the Beaver puppet that he had placed on his hand the night before. It speaks in an accent that at different times sounds part Russell Crowe, part Hugh Jackman, and part Michael Caine. He then takes the Beaver and begins to live life through it. From here, I’m going to simply comment on the film as much as possible, and quit with the description of events when I can. There are subplots with his job, his wife, and a great one with his son and a girl with problems of her own. Go watch it!
Have I mentioned yet that Jennifer Lawrence is in this? Yes, J Law herself. She starts the her scenes the same way she won her Oscar – by making us think that she is a normal girl before blowing up at a person by yelling at them… all the while still making the audience like her. Anton Yelchin is also in this movie. He has been in some other movies, like the Star Trek reboots and a delightful book adaptation of Odd Thomas. I find his acting to be terrific and can’t figure out why this kid isn’t a bigger star than he is.
This movie is so many things. I want to end by talking about its comments on fatherhood. Fatherhood is hard. You want your kids to succeed in all the ways you did, and not make any of the same mistakes. Yet these kids have half of your genetic material. As the movie shows, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, how similar Porter and Walter really are, I found myself wondering which tics and qualities my sons will exhibit when they are older that are mine. I know that I stick my tongue to the side when I make a rough turn on a riding lawn mower, and so did my father. For a film to invoke those memories as well as to make me focus on the film, I can’t say enough.
The only thing that is keeping me from giving this film an A+ is because there are motifs and sets that seem reused. The scene where Walter and the Beaver have their first big staff meeting looks overwhelming like the place where Gibson worked in What Women Want. The film is also painfully obvious as to what Lawrence is languishing over, though the decisions to make her a graffiti artist was fresh and brought it back a bit. I give this film the highest A it can get without being an A+.
Check out IMDB for more information about The Beaver.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"