SYNOPSIS: A serious depressed and suicidal man starts talking through a puppet of a beaver in an attempt to reconnect with wife, children and employees.
Jodie Foster directs and stars in this quirky dark dramedy with Mel Gibson. As Walter Black, Mel Gibson is a man who has lost himself and his way to happiness. After years of self-help books, therapists and prescription drugs, Walter still walks through his life in an uninterested, detached haze. When his wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster) finally forces him to move out, Walter then stumbles even further into his suicidal downward spiral. Failing to hang himself on the hotel bathroom curtain rod, he is confronted by an Aussie voice talking through a beaver puppet he happened to have on his hand. Working through the puppet as his spokesman, Walter sets out to reclaim his place in his family and business.
The subject matter is difficult and strange, but Foster presents it well. This story could be any of a man struggling through life, but The Beaver’s use of, well, a beaver is at times appropriately humorous, somewhat strange and ultimately dangerous. Foster does not try to force the talking furry puppet into its own frame, content with letting the audience see Walter speak through and work the beaver together. Of course, Walter’s youngest son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) adores the Beaver, eager to have his father in his life. Walter’s oldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin) , resents that he himself has any similarities with his father. And how much can Meredith (Jodie Foster) take of a beaver that never leaves her husband’s arm.
In addition to Walter, we also see the subplot of a son running from his father and what the son sees he may become, all the while finding voices for others as he gets paid to write essays and compositions for their classes. As he escapes from himself into others, he loses what it is that makes him an individual. Even his interest in the Valedictorian cheerleader leads him further down a road that is not his own.
Foster uses the son’s use of the hanging post-its of his similarities to his father as a way to define a person’s traits as individual elements that can be removed from the whole. She uses other visual elements to also denote the boxed in, but fractured essence that is the center of the film. What tools are used to build scrap wood memory boxes for the youngest son also serves as a reminder of the reality that Walter is unable to cope with.
Faint hints of the ventriloquist’s dummy in Magic comes through. Is Walter the voice for the puppet, or is he the puppet as the extension of the beaver? In the third act, a momentous confrontation ensues between Walter and the Beaver, echoing another film that I refrain from offering since it may give away too much.
In all, The Beaver is strange and interesting. Gibson’s depiction of Walter’s depression is palpable. And you can see Jodie Foster’s Meredith tired of standing by her man as he spins out of his mind. Can a man find peace through a mouthpiece while unable to cope without it? And what must a man lose or gain in order to fight back from sanity’s brink? Since this film is only in 22 theaters around the country, you will not have much opportunity to take in this film at the moment, but if you are a fan of Jodie Foster or Mel Gibson's What Women Want, this film may be attractive to you.