Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Let's review something: The Beaver

This was actually…good?

I’m as shocked as anyone else.  I was pretty certain upon hearing about this movie that it was going to be terrible.  It just looked so stupid.  That said, I’m always game to try anything once, and the reviews were shockingly kind to a film about a man communicating through a puppet.  What I found was a film that was far more profound and moving than expected.  Despite a few slip ups and some confused plot points, this film works remarkably well and delivers the unexpected, which is a good thing from time to time.

‘The Beaver’ centers on Walter Black, a depressed CEO of a toy company who has swallowed himself up in his shell of a soul and repelled those closest to him thanks to the darkest of depression.  He sleeps, a lot, and barely notices his family to the point where his eldest son despises him, his youngest son feels abandoned and his wife finally kicks him out.  With the light completely snuffed, Walter contemplates suicide, but not before he finds a beaver puppet in a dumpster and for some odd reason decides to take it to the hotel with him.  The beaver then begins to speak through him to him and next thing you know Walter Black has disappeared and is replaced by a British beaver who allows Walter to escape the parts of himself he loathes and replace them with a confidence and sass unbeknownst to him.  While this concept is initially bizarre to those who love him, it eventually allows everyone to escape, until it crosses a line and overstays its welcome and then, well, “shit happens”.

Walter will not be joining us for dinner this evening.

As a whole, ‘The Beaver’ is surprisingly astute and really develops its central theme nicely.  This is aided by a phenomenal performance by Mel Gibson.  This guy has gotten a really bad rap (deservedly so as of late) and so it seems like the world roots for him to fail (which is probably why this film did nothing at the box office) but one should be able to separate professional from personal life, and there is no denying that Gibson attacks this performance with a ferocity needed to sell it every step of the way.  He underscores his character’s depression with an authenticity that makes you believe his pain.  It actually reminded me a bit of Rourke’s turn in ‘The Wrestler’ in that whole ‘art imitating life’ sort of way.  When ‘The Wrestler’ was released it was all about how Rourke was basically playing himself in a way that was therapeutic.  The same is probably true for Gibson here.  This character’s free-fall from the brink of sanity is a figurative, fictional representation of Gibson’s own mental state.  But, what Gibson does that is so commendable is that he never shies away from baring a piece of himself in every facet of this film, and while the film never victimizes or vilifies Walter and his actions, Gibson finds a way to do both beautifully.  We can feel for the hopeless and helpless state that Walter finds himself and yet we can see the destructive tones that are brought in with the introduction of The Beaver himself.  The way that Gibson contorts his face in sheer bafflement while the words leaving his mouth are so confident and commanding is just sensational, and the way that he comes over to the power of the puppet on his hand is hard to ignore.  I’m stunned at the layers of depth he found in shading this man’s mental decline, and while the film’s resolution is a tad too brief (why did this have to be so short?) I felt as if Gibson found a way to explain far more than the film was actually willing to tell us.

Am I not lovable?

But as great as Gibson is, and as intriguing and compelling as the plot is, there are some weaknesses.  The side plot involving the toy company and the beaver inspired toy is a tad too obvious, and the plot revolving around Black’s son and his love interest is unnecessary.  This film had a chance to maintain focus and instead it veered in the wrong ways, and when you have a running length that is under two hours (it is barely an hour and a half) then you need to keep sharp focus so as to get a fuller impact.  The graduation speech that results from the love-story is also cringe-worthy in its obviousness.

Still, this is a much stronger film than one may initially expect and so I highly recommend checking it out!

1 comment:

  1. I liked the film a little more than you did, but I'm glad someone else appreciates Gibson's performance. He's great in a role that could've been a train wreck. This performance and his one in Signs are very underrated.