The Beaver was a weird movie.
I say this admitting full well that I unabashedly love movies most would consider weird. Movies that most would consider weird, I would consider fairly normal. With that in mind, The Beaver, once again, was a weird movie.
The premise of the film is that post meltdown Mel Gibson (remember when he told a police officer that Jews started all the wars, then told his ex she resembled a pig in heat? If people ever wonder what happened to Mel Gibson, Mel Gibson happened to Mel Gibson) plays a depressed and suicidal husband, father of two and toy company executive. After years of incrementally retreating into himself, he’s kicked out of home by his emotionally taxed wife. He finds a beaver puppet in a dumpster and after a failed suicide attempt, has a schizophrenic episode and starts talking through the puppet in an effort to get better.
It’s a bizarre concept, for sure. I’d love to say it all comes together under Jodie Foster’s watchful directorial eye, but the movie is a fucking mess. To be honest, the acting is actually pretty good, but it’s at odds with everything else going on. Mel Gibson gives a hell of a performance as a depressed man at the end of his tether. It’s palpable how little he has left to give and it really shows. Jodie Foster as his wife has that human touch that Jodie Foster tends to. The eldest son and Jennifer Lawrence give their roles as much as their roles are capable of giving them, but there’s the first hurdle.
The dialogue is woeful. Hacky and ham fisted, it feels like a legitimate story trapped under layers of recycled garbage from years worth of feel-good family dramas. It’s a disservice to the talent involved and stamps down something that at times feels close to touching legitimacy. The script also suffers from things being all too convenient. All of a sudden things just lift. The struggle feels lessened by everything working out for the most part. People jump on board in a way that reality would belie. The alacrity with which people just accept that Mel Gibson talks through a beaver puppet with a rough English accent is literally unbelievable. Then we come to the next hurdle.
This movie never knows how to handle its mood. It’s being pulled in three distinct directions and the result is a strained film. You’ve got a dark portrait of the endless rigours of depression and its cascading effects on the people around them. There’s a clumsy family feel good tale of redemption which feels not dissimilar from a Lifetime film. Then you have to buy in to this fucking beaver and the inherent black comedy of the situation. Any dramatic tension or mood is instantly undercut by this comical muppet on Gibson’s fist. There are sex scenes. The puppet features. More than once the puppet kisses Jodie Foster. It does service the movie to help the audience empathise with her displacement over the situation, but tries in vain to rise above absurdity to hammer on the heart strings.
It’s usually so easy to dismiss a mediocre movie as just that, but it so feels like this film had a chance. It’s a shame, that’s for sure. A dam shame.