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"The Beaver" - {Blu-ray}
Edward McNulty
Studio: Summit Ent
Release Date:
August 23, 2011
Special Features:

See Below


Jodie Foster’s newest turn at directing might remind you of Lars and the Real Girl because of its bizarre premise, in this case a severely depressed man engaging in self-therapy by means of a child’s large beaver hand puppet, hence the title. She was brave in casting Mel Gibson as the almost catatonic Walter Black because of his notoriety—and yet it is the actor’s real-life instability, added to his great thespian ability, that makes his performance so compelling. The script by Kyle Killen will seem far out to many, requiring a similar suspension of belief as in the case of Lars…, but for those who can do so, the film will be a richly rewarding experience.***

We first see Walter on a float in his pool with his arms stretched out to his sides. Yes, I know, filmmakers have used this crucifix posture a lot, from Whisper Down the Wind and Cool Hand Luke to Gran Torino, but as a symbol of intense suffering it reinforces our feeling for this man no longer able to cope with life. The only reason he has not lost his job as the head of a once thriving toy company is that he is its owner and CEO. Because he has scarcely spoken to them in three years Walter has lost the support of his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) and the affection of his oldest son Porter (Anton Yelchin). Walter tries yoga, meditation, group therapy, self-help books, but nothing brings him out of the dumps.***

Unable to bear watching him deteriorate before her eyes, Meredith orders him out of the house. When he checks into a motel he tries to hang himself by his necktie tied to the shower curtain bar. This gives way, and we are drawn between laughing and feeling concern as he drags around behind him the bar with the shower curtain still attached. Outside, he drops some of his possessions into a dumpster, and then returns to pull out a large hand puppet in the form of a beaver. When Walter puts the puppet on his left hand Beaver starts talking to him in a cockney accent, telling him to get a grip on himself. "I'm here to save your g.d. life," it asserts. “The question is, do you want to get better?” (During all the rest of the scenes of Beaver taking charge the filmmakers make no attempt to have Gibson cover his lips so as to produce a fantasy that Beaver is really alive, and not just a tool for ventriloquism.}***

Renewed, Walter/Beaver rejuvenates his company—and guess what is the new toy that they market and which proves such a hit that Walter is appearing on magazine covers and all the news/talk shows? Yes, it is brown and furry with big buckteeth. Meredith is glad to have him back in her life, but then matters grow complicated when she objects to Beaver always tagging along. She wants to be just with Walter. You’ll see why in the threesome love scene that’s a hoot to watch. The film soon turns darker as Beaver changes from helper to menace.***

The film is not for everyone, which is probably why the studio did not release it to the usual one or two thousand screens like a normal film starring Jodi Foster and Mel Gibson, but just on 22 screens—yes, you read right, 22 screens! Even in the 168 theaters featuring Indies and foreign films that it finally was shown in The Beaver did not last long, which makes its Blu-Ray/DVD release all the sweeter.

Special Features:

Audio commentary by Jodie Foster/Several deleted scenes/A “making of the film’ featurette entitled "Everything is Going to Be O.K."

Final Words:

Gibson turns in a sterling performance that adults will be drawn to, and the so far unmentioned subplot in which his teenaged son fears that he might turn out like his father should attract younger viewers old enough to able to handle a bedroom scene. It takes some talent to make a tale of depression entertaining, but Ms. Foster and cast succeed.***


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