the fresh films reviews

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The Beaver (2011)

Jodie Foster
United States
The Beaver
91 minutes
Steve Golin
Keith Redmond
Ann Ruark
Kyle Killen

Cast includes:

Walter Black Mel Gibson
Meredith Black Jodie Foster
Porter Black Anton Yelchin
Norah Jennifer Lawrence
Henry Black Riley Thomas Stewart
Morgen Newell Cherry Jones



Unlike Ricky Gervais and a lot of other guys, I have seen Jodie Foster's Beaver. And although it is highly flawed and, I feel, not very relevant, it's quite fun to see Mel Gibson handling it. He plays Walter Black, a clinically depressed man who has alienated himself emotionally from his wife and two sons, and gets by in an apathetic way. After a failed suicide attempt, he finds himself "rescued" by a beaver hand puppet which gives him the opportunity to create a new and fresh persona to speak, act and feel for him. His youngest son embraces the beaver, his wife gives him a second chance, whereas his teenage son tries his best to separate himself from his mentally ill father.

I suspect most doctors and experts would dismiss the scientific basis on which The Beaver is based, and I'm more than sceptical myself, but I don't believe this really is Jodie Foster's point. This is a film that on the one hand wants to thematise depression and how it affects the sufferer and the people around him, and on the other hand tells us that a happy life is based on loving ourselves and our family. The former is treated ostensibly seriously, but also a bit flimsily; the latter is well and true, but also a bit too familiar, and the conclusion offers little in terms of new insight or inspiration, despite the fact that The Beaver has several poignant moments and observations throughout its running time.

I wanted to like Mel Gibson's performance here, seeing as it is arguably personal territory for him. And it is a sympathetic turn he delivers, but it feels somewhat shallow, especially when he resorts to his usual forced mimicry, which mars the total impression. Jodie Foster's character is the least interesting in the film, which is strange considering her affiliation. It is written and played as any other wife-character of a struggling man. I liked little Henry and the connection between him and the father, and of course, there is much to extract from the teenage son, Porter, who struggles both with his romantic emotions, growing-up and the relationship with his father. Both Riley Thomas Stewart and Anton Yelchin as the brothers give fine performances, but as with the rest of the film, they lack an edge; something important and new to say. The Beaver arguably has its heart in the right place, but it tries a little too hard covering up an otherwise unremarkable story by deploying a quirky plot element. I don't mind it, but it's not as brilliant as the filmmakers probably would like to think.

Copyright 29.01.2012 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang