Review – The Beaver

Depression is a very hard issue to tackle. None of the symptoms show on the surface, it’s an internal battle that is easy to hide. The more you hide it, the deeper you sink into the hole. Soon it feels like you’re viewing the world from the bottom of a well. You can’t get excited about anything, the embrace of a loved one is nothing but a physical exchange and it’s an overall feeling of numbness. How do I know about depression? It’s because for a long time I was depressed. A good indicator of depression is when you feel disconnected from all the things in your life that make you happy. I could blather on about my battle with depression, but the short story is that I dealt with it, I put a couple of teaspoons of concrete in my morning coffee and I hardened up. Overcoming depression is all about having the balls to admit you’ve got it and then set about talking to loved ones and changing your lifestyle to rediscover your happiness.

‘The Beaver’ tells the story of Walter Black (Mel Gibson) a man in the grips of depression. His wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) tries her hardest to connect with him while his teenage son Porter (Anton Yelchin) has made it his life mission to not become like his father. One day Walter discovers a beaver hand-puppet that becomes his sole way of communicating with the world and his life starts to turn around.
‘The Beaver’ is a very strange film that tries hard to be different but comes across as just terrible. The whole film is flawed by the concept, it does not work, and the puppet proves to be a hindrance as a character. Director Jodie Foster tries to make this family drama as twisted as possible but nothing works.

What sinks the film early on is the puppet in action. Mel Gibson tries to put personality into the character of the beaver, but he’s just annoying. The beaver is meant to act as a voice for a deeply troubled man, but nothing it says contains anything useful or insightful. In order for the film to work, the audience has to believe in the beaver, and from the minute it starts talking you can collectively hear the audience calling bullshit.

I don’t think any actor could have pulled it off, not even the child of Meryl Streep and Marlon Brando. Mel Gibson tries his hardest but it never takes off (and in no way does Mel’s personal life damage the audience’s view of his performance, it’s just bad.) Foster provides ample support as the forever worrying wife but never goes beyond that. The best thing about the film is Yelchin who gives weight to the angst ridden teenager role. Usually teenagers are relegated to slamming doors and screaming ‘I hate you dad!’, but Yelchin goes beyond that and delivers a memorable performance.

‘The Beaver’ tries to be clever and different but the problem is it’s a weak attempt at replicating the success of ‘American Beauty’ which handled the same issues better. I felt the film failed to acknowledge the true nature of depression and the joy of overcoming it and finding happiness. If you want to take a risk with your movie money this year, ‘The Beaver’ is the closest thing to gambling at the cinema.


‘The Beaver’ is released in Australia, 4 August 2011


The Popcorn Junkie