The Beaver: WTF?!
Mel Gibson has lost his mind. At least his character, Walter Black, has lost his mind in the film The Beaver. Walter has been battling severe depression and has lost his will to live. After a failed suicide attempt, he stumbles upon a beaver puppet in a dumpster and begins to live vicariously through his new buck-toothed friend.
His wife, Merideth (played by Jodie Foster, who also directs) thinks he’s gone crazy, but begins to accept his new form of expression when Walter seems to become a better person. Porter (Anton Yelchin), Walter’s oldest son, thinks his dad is the worst person in the world and vows to never be like him. Walter’s youngest, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart), thinks his dad is just playing a fun game and enjoys bonding with him through The Beaver.
At work at his failing toy company, Walter’s employees think his newfound insanity is rooted in genius and that he’s just breathing new life into a stagnant industry. They embrace The Beaver and soon, their top selling toy is based on the furry guru.
The film seems to drift back and forth from the idea that Walter knows what he’s doing and the idea that he’s gone completely insane. There are several laughs at Walter’s Beaver-related antics, but the root of it all is dark and a bit unsettling, so you’re never sure if you should really be laughing.
The side plot involving Yelchin and his more-than-just-a-cheerleader love interest, Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) could come out of any indie movie. They’re two teens from different cliques. She’s the valedictorian and she’s pretty and popular. He’s dark and dangerous, probably stemming from his wildly unstable home life. Yet, somehow they over come all the teen social boundaries and form a real connection. You’ve heard it before, but I must say, Yelchin and Lawrence pull it off in a way that doesn’t feel rehashed.
Of course, the elephant in the room–or should I say the beaver in the room–is Gibson’s own mental state. Gibson’s performance is great and he really embraces the character, but you can’t help but wonder about his own mental state while you watch. Like Walter, his off-screen antics can be crazy and amusing, but there’s always that threat of danger running through his bizarre behavior that keeps it from being funny. Charlie Sheen might be nuts, but he seems to be navigating his own craziness and turning it into more fame and fortune. Gibson, on the other hand, threatened to kill his baby momma and bury her in the rose garden, so… you know, there’s that.
Flirtation with total psychotic insanity is the running theme in The Beaver and it makes it difficult to determine just how the audience is supposed to react. Unlike Lester Burnham in American Beauty, this is no mid-life crisis, but a legitimate mental problem requiring therapy and medication. So, is Walter’s behavior funny? Is it sad? Is it disturbing? Most of the time, we’re not completely sure.