PG Cooper: The Beaver Review

Posted: September 13, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: May 6th, 2011

Running time: 91 minutes

Written by: Kyle Killen

Directed by: Jodie Foster

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, and Jennifer Lawrence

The Beaver is a film that I was never sure what I was gonna get from it. The film looked to have an impressive cast, but the concept looked, um, interesting, for lack of a better word. I actually remember finding the concept and trailer kinda funny, but director Jodie Foster insisted the movie was a drama meant to be taken seriously. So then I really wasn’t sure. It got some mixed reviews from critics, which continued to leave me in the dark. Recently though, this blog’s HT Schuyler gave the film  a decent review (which you can read here). This got me interested, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect. The DVD cover promises “A true masterpiece”. Well, The Beaver isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t a masterpiece.

Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is a family man and corporate executive who’s suffering from massive depression. He works a CEO job where he admits he’s unqualified for and his relationship with his family has strained. Eventually Black’s wife (Jodie Foster) kicks him out of the house. Walter ends up finding a beaver puppet in a dumpster and ends up wearing it. At his hotel room, he starts trying to kill himself but keeps messing up before passing out. When Walter wakes, he starts talking to himself with the puppet. He returns to his family more eccentric then ever, but is mostly communicating through his puppet. The puppet even refers to himself as a separate entity from Walter. But Walter’s youngest son (Riley Thomas Stewart) is really charmed by him, so Walter’s wife decides to take Walter back. Only Walter’s eldest son Porter (Anton Yelchin) sees Walter for what a really is; an crazy weirdo.

The biggest problem with the movie is the tone. It dances around being comedy and being drama. The first half of the film makes light of mental illness in a way I don’t appreciate. You spend most of it laughing at how silly the whole thing is. Then in the second half it gets really dark. While I enjoy a darker portrayal of mental illness, it feels out of place given the material. Hell, sometimes the darker scenes of the film are even funnier because of how serious the film takes itself. There is one particularly dark turn that happens that feels so ridiculous you either laugh, or roll your eyes, or both. The sad thing is I think the film has something interesting to say. I like what Foster and writer Kyle Killen were trying to say, but the general concept undercuts what it wants to say.

I also think you can make serious and dramatic films despite being very absurd. Just take a look at films like Fight Club and Inglorious Basterds. Now you might say it’s unfair to compare The Beaver to movies of that caliber, but I’m more making a statement about movies which are, on paper, over the top. Films like Fight Club and Inglorious Basterds are full of over the top and zany elements that don’t transcend well into the real world. But those films are very stylish by design, and all the wackiness that ensues feels completely natural within the context of the film’s world. But The Beaver tries to pass itself as reality, but it just doesn’t work. I’m not saying The Beaver had the potential to be as good as Inglorious Basterds and Fight Club, but I do think they could have done a better job making the concept feel more plausible.

I know I’ve been pretty hard on this film, but there are some things I really like. Say what you will about Mel Gibson, but I’ve always liked him as an actor, and his performance in this is quite good. The way he plays depression is great. It isn’t over the top and you feel a lot of sympathy for him. Gibson also does a very good job working the puppet. I know that sounds odd, but  he does. He does a good job giving both Walter and the beaver specific personalities and you do start to forget the beaver isn’t real. I also liked the rest of the cast. Anton Yelchin is a young actor I really like and I’m still waiting for him to have his break out film. While The Beaver certainly isn’t that film, he does do a very good job. His character is actually one of the most interesting and I wish the film focused on the relationship between him and his father more. Jodie Foster does a very good job. You really feel her character’s pain and sympathize for her. Jennifer Lawrence also delivers a good performance. The only actor who I didn’t like was the kid in the family.  Apart from that, the cast is quite good. So good in fact, you end up wishing the material was up to their level.

My review may read harsh, but I don’t hate this film. I’d say I meet it in the middle. I really like the performances, and Foster does a competent job directing, but the film’s concept makes it hard to take seriously. If they were to rework the film and take away the puppet aspect, you could have an interesting study on mental health with some interesting statements on life itself. As it stands, the movie’s intentions are good, it just doesn’t quite pull it off.

Rating: C

  1. Andrew Romhild says:

    To long… You expect me to read all this dan?

  2. ianthecool says:

    Yeah, the film’s concept makes it hard to take it seriously enough to even see it, for me anyways. Gibson is a good actor, but honestly I prefer his as a director. I hope he gets back into it despite his PR problems.

  3. Castor says:

    I was left a bit wanting at the end of this as well. I think it has to do with Foster’s timid directing more than anything else. Reading the script, I thought it was going to be more darkly funny. Also the entire Yelchin-Lawrence subplot took away from the main story line.

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