The Beaver (2011)

Having spent years trapped in crippling depression, despondent toy executive Walter Black (Mel Gibson) finally finds himself evicted from his home and divorced from his family. Throwing out some of his belongings in order to make room for a few crates of alcohol, Walter takes solace in a braver hand puppet rescued from the skip. Using the puppet as a barrier between his vulnerable mentality and the outside world, Walter starts to rebuild his life – both personal and professional – as he finds a new means of communicating in his youngest son and creates a lucrative new toy for his failing company. Older son Porter (Anton Yelchin) and wife Meredith (Jodie Foster), however, soon lose patience with the foetid, cockney beaver, the question of permanency driving a fresh wedge between the struggling family.

Well I suppose we should address The Elephant (sequel opportunity?) in the room, Mel Gibson’s rants and raves at the expense of just about every minority there is,  and treat it with the respect and dividends it no doubt deserves.

Anyway, while it could be argued that the real life similarities inherent in Walter Black’s cry for help and subsequent career revival lend The Beaver an extra dimension of poignancy, I spent little of the film’s running time drawing the comparisons. You see, quite beside the fact that I have been able to discern fact from fiction since the age of about four, I have always found Mel Gibson a formidable and magnetic screen presence, his recent flirtation with the director’s chair producing one of the greatest movies of the last few years, the utterly excellent Apocalypto. The Beaver proves no exception.

Not only does Gibson convince with a bonkers cockney accent – I literally, until the credits rolled, believed it to be the voice of Ray Winstone – but he delivers one of the most nuanced and heart-breaking performances of the year. Hidden behind a puppet and navigating life by way of zombie shuffle, it’s easy to overlook the actor’s admittedly understated approach to the character. It is to Gibson’s credit, then, that his presence is always felt, even opposite the decidedly more active roles enacted by Foster and Yelchin.

A lot has been said of Yelchin’s allegedly superfluous romantic subplot, in which he battles for the affections of reluctant street artist Nora (Jennifer Lawrence). While the set up of their relationship – strictly business at first – defies believability (he fakes other students’ essays for a living, she needs a graduation speech that sounds like it was written by her own hand), it develops into an organic and welcome escape from Walter’s all-consuming psychosis and a moving – if slightly pretentious – final speech.

The Beaver absolutely destroyed me. For reasons I have yet to truly comprehend, the story of one man’s struggle to find his voice – and keep it distinct from that of his furry fabrication – reduced me to a blubbing wreck, refusing to leave my thoughts since. Beautifully shot, passionately acted and utterly visceral, Foster has put together a dramedy which matches the lightness of the core premise with some of the darkest undertones you will see in cinemas this year. Whatever your feelings towards Mel Gibson, the story of Walter Black is not one you ought to miss.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to The Beaver (2011)

  1. Pingback: June 2011 – It’s happening! It happened. « popcornaddict

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