My excitement for The Beaver reached its peak when I read the reviews today. Most said that it was a movie that got it right. I feel that it was a movie that got it mostly right. I would not pat this movie on the back and say “Job well done.” Mel Gibson has always used the same technique to look sad, happy, angry, excited, and crazy. His crying bit in Conspiracy Theory had me in tears as well. That was way back when he hadn’t declared himself the King of Miami. I had a crush on Mel. Through his antics and his anti-whatever I have become less of a fan. I realize that Gibson is hanging on by a thread, so I won’t harp on his behavior.
This movie was Mel Gibson’s friend Jodie Foster’s way of taking his life from the dismal place in which it’s been resting to a new and improved Gibson. The elements of his life follow pretty closely to the plot line. A divorce leads to a meltdown, a meltdown leads to odd behavior, odd behavior leads to violence, and violence leads to destruction. So let’s pretend for a moment that Mel in real life is just as sane and likable as he was in, say, What Women Want. So he does The Beaver because Foster asked him to and they are old buddies? As The Beaver would say, not bloody likely.
It is my belief that Mel did this film to put himself out there again. To achieve the love and admiration that he once had from his fans. I noticed that in this film were Foster, a long time friend of Gibson’s, and Cherry Jones, a former co-star. Funny that he had his friends and three young kids playing in the backbone of the story. I am not trying to roast Mel. I think that he has done enough of that to himself. I just think that this movie was an effort to get his name back into the good graces of the general public.
Can I tell you a secret? I saw this film on opening night in Chicago. Aside from me, there were about ten other people in the theater. I don’t know if 8:30 is just too early to see a show in the evening and perhaps the bigger crowd would show for the later screening, but people were mocking the emptiness.
So Jodie Foster plays wife to Mel Gibson’s Walter Black. He is a suicidally depressed man. The film starts strong. The opening scenes depict Walter doing what he does best: drinking and sleeping. He sleeps often as depressed people do. He is the leader of a succesful company and has a beautiful family yet depression finds him regardless. After he is kicked out of the house by wife Meredith, he purchases a box, not a bottle… a box, of booze. He wants to put the box of booze in his trunk but because he moved out there is too much crap in the trunk. He sees a dumpster and begins loading all of his garbage into it. On top of the heap is a stuffed beaver. Any sane person would not pay this beaver any attention and would walk away. Not Walter. He takes the beaver and begins to communicate through it. Yes, it is unbelievable. Yes, it is ridiculous. But, somehow Gibson just makes it work. For most of the film.
Troubled sons Henry (Riley Stewart) and Porter (Anton Yelchin) fight to maintain some normalcy. Henry faces bullies at school and Porter faces the idea that someday he will become his father. Porter has a crush on Norah (Jennifer Lawrence). Don’t look for the same Lawrence you may have seen in Winter’s Bone. She does not convince me here that she can do the less intense version of acting that Hollywood requires sometimes.
The whole movie strikes me as an attempt to appease people. It was what I expected and I found few surprises. Please do not think that I didn’t enjoy the movie. I feel I may have spelled it out that way. Forgive me. I enjoyed the film just fine. I didn’t fall in love with it as I thought I would. It was disappointing. Please go into this film expecting to be underwhelmed and you might be overwhelmed. It’s not a bad movie. It’s just not a great movie.