The Beaver Movingly Portrays Mental Illness
- Friday, May 06, 2011
DVD Release Date: August 23, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: May 6, 2011 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, some disturbing content, sexuality, language and a drug reference)
Run Time: 91 min.
Director: Jodie Foster
Actors: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones
“People love a train wreck—unless it’s happening to them.”
Given all that’s transpired in Mel Gibson’s personal life of late and how it’s played out in all its ugly glory in every news publication, respectable and otherwise, you can’t help but think that line from The Beaver really connected with the troubled actor. After all, he definitely knows a little something about falling off the rails, and perhaps, that’s why he signed on for the role of a man who’s clearly suffering in his own skin.
In case you were expecting someone else, this isn’t the same guy who magically transforms from a cad to a selfless do-gooder who ends up getting the girl in What Women Want. He’s also not the lovable dad with a major crisis of faith in Signs. In fact, Gibson looks exactly how his character Walter Black feels when the camera zooms in for a close-up—tired, haggard and positively hopeless.
Unlike some inherently depressing movies where the audience is briefly transported back to a time where life was more upbeat for the protagonist, The Beaver doesn’t bother with feel-good sentimentality. Instead, we meet Walter in the middle of his anguish—as he’s buying the booze he hopes will numb him as he ends his own pathetic life.
See, his family has pretty much lost patience with the perpetual cloud that hangs over him. Spending the bulk of his 24 hours a day sleeping, he’s not contributing to anything or anyone, something his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster, The Brave One) fears will have an adverse effect on her two sons, Porter (Anton Yelchin, Terminator Salvation) and Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan). Little does she know that Porter, a senior in high school, already suspects he’s becoming just like his father. So he keeps a running tally of their similarities in a cloud of Post-its on his bedroom wall.
As much as Walter gives it his best shot, his suicide attempt isn’t successful. So in the absence of other options, he decides to head back home. Making a quick stop to a nearby dumpster to first throw away the remnants from his lost weekend, a ratty brown puppet in the shape of a beaver immediately catches his eye. And then Walter has an epiphany—or maybe it was the beaver—maybe just maybe, Walter could reboot his life if he let the beaver do the talking for him (in a Cockney accent, no less).
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