Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Beaver: Grade A


The Beaver (2011)

Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence; Director Jodie Foster.

Whatever you think of Mel Gibson personally, you have to admit the guy can act. In this surreal comedy, he demonstrates that, by playing an American suburban husband who suffers from depression. He is unresponsive to his family and especially his wife (Foster). Finally she boots him out of the house and he drunkenly attempts suicide in a cheap hotel room. By chance he regains consciousness next to a beaver hand puppet that was among his personal goods (for reasons never explained). He talks to himself about his disorder by using the beaver as an alter ego. Thus his depression morphs into a dissociative disorder, which would not happen in reality, but hey, it’s a movie.

By speaking through the beaver puppet, he is able to reestablish emotional contact with his family. He tells his wife it is a new kind of therapy and she goes along with it. He regains his dynamism as CEO of a toy company, again by talking through the puppet. The employees accept the puppet device, and the company becomes more successful than ever. Eventually though, the wife becomes impatient and demands the elimination of the puppet. The ending is grim yet satisfying.

The movie is not believable in any realistic sense. Rather you have to take it as an allegory for mental illness, but even at that, it is not accurate enough to be informative or helpful. So in the end this is just a dark, goofy comedy with a mental illness theme. As such it is quite successful, mainly because it is so original. The writing is excellent and acting by Gibson and Foster make it well worth watching. Especially entertaining is Gibson’s working class English/Aussie accent (think Geico Gecko). The substory of romance between teenager Yelchin and his high school girlfriend (Lawrence) seems like a different movie. Maybe it was an ill-advised attempt to add a note of realism to the strange tale of the man with the puppet. If so, it only partially works because it is not well woven. Foster’s directing is impeccable.

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