When I first heard that Mel Gibson was going to star in a movie where he played a man who talked through a hand puppet of a beaver I thought good for him, another comedy under his belt. It wasn’t until I watched the film that I found the movie was only comedic in moments but was actually a deep drama focusing on one man’s method of dealing with depression, something I think more and more people are experiencing these days. And I also thought it was much better than I had anticipated.
In THE BEAVER, Gibson stars as Walter Black, the owner of a toy company handed down to him by his father. Walter is in the midst of a deep depression that nothing seems to cure. Therapy, fads, pills, nothing works. His youngest son Henry (Riley Stewart) doesn’t see most of the problems, his teen son Porter (Anton Yelchin) is in that teen phase where he hates his father and dreads becoming like him (to the point he puts post it notes on the ceiling of his room of things his dad does so he won’t do them) and his wife Meredith (Jodi Foster who also directed) is so frustrated that she kicks him out.
With nowhere to go, Walter ditches part of what he’s taken with him and while looking in the dumpster finds a hand puppet of a beaver. For some odd reason, he takes it with him and checks into a hotel. At his lowest point, Walter then attempts suicide by hanging himself from a shower curtain rod which fails miserably. Dragging the rod by his necktie, he then stands on the ledge of his room and tries to jump, falling backward onto the balcony. And then the beaver starts talking to him.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a puppet that’s alive and talks. Walter’s lips move and the words come from his mouth, but to him it IS the beaver speaking to him. And the beaver tells him he is here to fix his life.
The next thing you know Walter is in the garage working on a project with his youngest son and passing along a note to his wife telling her that this is a new therapy suggested by his last therapist. He does the same at work and while it seems strange to see his lips moving but getting the impression it’s the beaver talking, everyone adjust. His life gets better.
Things at the toy factory go great and he launches a new toy line based on…the beaver. Things at home get better too as he works his way back into his family’s good graces. With the exception of Porter who has his own issues to deal with. These include writing fake assignments for fellow students and being hired by the school’s prettiest girl to write the valedictorian speech for her. The two try to open up to one another tentatively but still the both have something to hide.
And that’s the thing about this movie. It’s not about a man with a talking beaver puppet on his hand. It’s about people and the problems they have in real life and how they deal with them. Some might use a puppet while others hide in a shell and bang their head into a wall and yet some hold secrets and feelings deep inside with a fear of sharing them with anyone. All of these emotions come into play in this story. And the solutions that each character finds to their problems vary from violence to hear rendering.
Foster has done a great job of assembling a cast that seems fit for their roles. She does great as a woman concerned for her husband but trying to do the right thing for her family as well. Yelchin is great as a troubled teen searching for himself and fearful of becoming the one thing he witnesses as being worse off than he is. And Gibson turns in a dynamic performance as a man trapped inside of a deep pain that he can not share with anyone, that offers no release and that could end up killing him.
THE BEAVER is a film that will not be nominated for any awards (though Gibson’s performance should be) and didn’t last long at the box office. And that’s sad since the topic of depression and dealing with it is one that needs discussed. One can only hope that this film which offers fear, depression, the feeling of hopelessness, redemption and love will find its audience on DVD.
I'm going to try something new. If readers are interested or like this, let me know and I'll continue. It's a link to order this film through amazon. To order this DVD click here.