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The Beaver (2011)

Jodie Foster directs and stars in this sobering movie about mental illness, that has baffled movie audiences across the globe.

I have to sit amongst the many when I say that The Beaver is the most misjudged movie of 2011. The problem with The Beaver, is it’s story if you describe it, should be a funny movie, but it’s far from funny, in fact it’s incredibly depressing. The result is rather like selling E.T. to a horror movie audience.

Walter Black (Mel Gibson) has hit that point in his life, a mid-life crisis of sorts, but rather than running around chasing after women; he has just died, figuratively of course. Somewhere around fifty Walter just stopped living, his family life in tatters, his business shattered. It takes wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) kicking him out of the family house, to wake him up. But that wake up call does not come in a way you might expect. In a drunken stupor Walter looks into a garbage bin, inside is a Beaver glove puppet, the start of Walter’s return to the real world… but at what price?

Before I begin, I cannot stress this enough, The Beaver is NOT a comedy, this is a very serious movie, about mental illness; and despite visual impressions far from funny.

Despite being born in America, Mel Gibson spent his formative years in Australia, for thirty years he has had to adopt an American accent (excluding Braveheart of course), now he get’s to talk in his natural voice, the result, a little disturbing. You see the character of Walter Black is very much American, but when he adopts the Beaver glove puppet, he becomes an Australian. To cope with his depression, Walter finds he can only communicate through a mediator, that mediator just happens to be a glove puppet.

It’s a little hard to describe exactly how dark The Beaver is, especially when you consider that it’s about a madman with a glove puppet. I was expecting a serious aspect without a doubt, I just also expected some comedy, and via the odd mouth curling moment, when you’ll give the movie a smile, on the whole this is bloody depressing stuff. Not only do you have to look at the mental illness of Walter, you have to look at the damage that his illness passes on to his wife and children, and how the anger over Walter’s illness manifests itself in their behaviour. This is handled very well by Anton Yelchin (Fright Night) who plays Walter’s son Porter, who may or may not be starting to inherit similar traits to his father; realising he cant save himself, and resigned to a future with a glove puppet himself, Porter reaches out and tries to save someone else from their own mental difficulties.

Where the movie fails a bit, is in the portrayal of Walter; something is just not quite right. It’s difficult to warm to Walter, and in turn you find yourself warming to Meredith. Something, something quite small is missing, that one piece that would make you want to welcome Walter into your heart, and when you don’t quite get that, it’s difficult to make a movie a winner.

Jodie Foster steals her own show, as the leading lady and the director of the piece. The film is beautifully shot, and put together minus my obvious flaw from the previous paragraph. I cant help but think that there may have been some outside interference, after all this is THE Jodie Foster, who seldom has failings in either her acting or directing work. And while The Beaver is not a failure, something simply does not sit right, whether it’s the lack of love for the leading character, the lack of humour, or potential outside interference, I guess I’ll never truly know. The one thing I can say is this is not a movie you should watch if your looking for a little light relief, however if you like to adopt the harder line in your visual entertainment, this might be right up your street.

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  1. Posted November 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the review.

  2. Posted November 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I saw this a few weeks ago and, dark though it is, I was really impressed. Having grown up with Braveheart, the Lethal Weapon movies, and the Patriot, it was goo to see Mel back onscreen.

  3. Posted November 5, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Great review. I’m intrigued. I too grew up with Mel (my son watches Mad Max at least twice a week!!) And I’m a big fan of Jodie Foster.
    I might have to check this one out…

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