The Beaver

By James Burbidge

Written by: Kyle Killen
Directed by: Jodie Foster
Featuring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster

Released: 17th June 2011

It’s a pity Mel Gibson is an effective actor when he wants to be – it would be much easier to write him off after his racist/misogynistic rants if he were awful. Now Hollywood is looking to The Beaver to see whether the public will ever be able to accept him again. And whilst he picked an interesting role, judging by sales in the U.S. so far, no, the public don't want him back.

Walter (Gibson) used to be a successful businessman, husband and father. Now he is depressed, disconnected from his family and about to be kicked out by his wife. At his lowest point he finds a beaver puppet, which, when put on his hand, becomes an avatar for the more positive sides of his personality. Gone is the mumbling, miserable, American Walter, in his place is an articulate, positive, go-getting cockney/Australian entity referred to only as The Beaver. As Walter reintroduces himself to his family and his business he explains that this is a method of therapy to help distance himself from his depression. Obviously some people go with this (his youngest son) and others can’t stand it (his eldest son). 

The Beaver

What follows is a comedy/drama about reconnection, relationships and what it takes to make oneself happy. The characters here all have interesting takes on the situation, including the colleagues who think it might be marketing ploy, and Walter's wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) who loves the upbeat incarnation of her husband, but wants to connect with him, not a puppet. These themes are played out again in sub-plot involving the eldest son ( Anton Yelchin) and his business/romantic relationship with Valedictorian cheerleader Norah (an excellent Jennifer Lawrence). At the centre of this show however, is an entertaining and often gripping performance from Gibson. Speaking as the puppet his voice is gruff and deep, puntuated by ‘love’s and ‘tart’s. At the flip of a switch his face, voice and language can turn back to that of Walter, mumbling, miserable and American. Providing plenty of humour, and no small amount of heart, it's not hard to see why an actor would enjoy this part.

Producers and execs are always looking for films that are 'the same, but different' - and this is a script that fits that bill nicely. Whilst at it's heart, this film is not too different from any other family reconnection film, it puts enough of a twist on things to entertain. Not light enough for the more ridiculous humour, nor dark enough for its lowest depths; if the film slips anywhere it’s in maintaining a consistent tone. None-the-less, Foster’s hand at the helm is sure, and her grasp of both the humour and the drama of the material is convincing. Worth a watch, if you can get past the whole Gibson thing.

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About The Author

James Burbidge James performs a plethora of tasks for Raindance; writing articles, editing the newsletter, managing Twitter, helping on courses, organising volunteers and running the script services are but a few of the ones he is allowed to tell you about.
When he isn’t daydreaming about daylight he watches films (well, duh!) reads a bit, writes a bit and kicks arse at Ultimate Frisbee.




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