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DVD Review: The Beaver

August 23, 2011

The Beaver – An eOne Films’ Release

http://www.thebeaver-movie.com/

DVD Release Date: August 23rd, 2011

Rated PG for disturbing content, mature theme, not recommended for young children

Running time: 91 minutes

Jodie Foster (dir.)

Kyle Killen (writer)

Marcelo Zarvos (music)

Mel Gibson Walter Black

Jodie Foster as Meredith Black

Anton Yelchin as Porter Black

Jennifer Lawrence as Norah

Our reviews below:

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The Beaver DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

The Beaver is a portrait of Walter Black (Mel Gibson).  A hopelessly depressed executive working at his father’s toy company, he sleeps away any spare time.  His wife (Jodie Foster) is growing impatient and his teenaged son, Porter (Anton Yelchin) has become disinterested in dealing with his father’s problems.  But then Walter finds a discarded beaver puppet in a dumpster.  Wearing the puppet constantly (even in the shower) and only talking in a Cockney accent through the plush character, Walter is finally working his way through the depression.  But this solution can only last for so long before it becomes the problem.

Both behind the camera with Jodie Foster’s sharp direction and in front of it with Mel Gibson’s searing portrayal of a man on the edge, this is a daring balancing act often gracefully pulled off.  Gibson has said and done some unfortunate things over the years, but the off-screen persona of the actor should not affect the performance on-screen.  The Beaver is an odd little film that won’t be for everybody, but those looking for an honest drama that uses a talking hand puppet to take a very serious look at depression, will find much to admire about the film and Mel Gibson’s brilliant performance.

The Blu-ray includes audio commentary with director Jodie Foster, a ‘behind the scenes’ featurette as well as two pointless deleted scenes.

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The Beaver DVD Review by Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

The Beaver is a portrait of Walter Black (Mel Gibson), a very depressed executive who after being told to move out by his wife (Jodie Foster), finds a stuffed beaver puppet in a dumpster.  After getting drunk and nearly ending it all, he starts talking to the puppet – or rather, talking through it with himself.  The Beaver tells him something – ‘in order to change, you can’t be Walter Black anymore’.  So, he starts to talk only through the puppet.  When he goes back to his house and family, he tells his wife it is a ‘prescription puppet’ and she reluctantly goes along with it.  Meanwhile, his younger son, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) loves the puppet, although his older son Porter (Anton Yelchin) wants even less to do with the father he’s afraid of turning into.

The performances are all really good here, and Yelchin has been proving time and again recently, that he is a young actor to watch.  But it is some of the work by Mel Gibson – such as when he is arguing with essentially his hand, doing both voices, both personalities – that is amazing.  It is unfortunate that the politics of the actor have prevented more from seeing this film, which is quite interesting and well directed by Jodie Foster.

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The Beaver DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Beaver is a fascinating and disturbing story about mental illness.  Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is a toy salesman who has been depressed for a long time.  He has tried everything and is about to give up, until he finds a toy beaver puppet in the trash.  He puts it on his hand and makes it talk.  Walter brings The Beaver home, asking his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster), his sons Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) and Porter (Anton Yelchin) as well as his co-workers to address the puppet and not Walter.  He is going to start over with a fresh slate.

Everyone initially goes along with The Beaver, except for Porter.  What concerns him is that he has inherited depression from his Dad.  Recognizing the symptoms, Porter creates a chart of similarities between them and feels he must ignore Walter/The Beaver if he is to avoid the madness in the home.  Meredith also debates whether or not to take the kids and leave her husband.  While Porter begins to improve as he falls for a quiet young artist, Norah (Jennifer Lawrence), Walter loses touch with the world, leading up to a shocking (and thankfully off-screen) climax that rivals anything in Black Swan.  Only then do things start to improve.

The Beaver is funny at times, but by no means a comedy.  And despite the cute puppet and PG rating, it is by no means a family friendly movie.  The film’s portrayal of mental illness is raw and believable.  It is not afraid to show how harmful and destructive untreated mental illness can be, from Porter’s stim behaviours to Walter’s suicidal actions.  The film addresses the fact that while mental illness is worsened by family dynamics, the majority of them are genetic in nature.

The film’s portrayal of mental illness as well as its toll on the family, are believable and sympathetically acted by the three leads, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and Anton Yelchin.  It is unfortunate that many people avoided The Beaver due to the fact that it stars the often notorious Gibson.  I would definitely recommend the film, especially to anyone who is interested in mental health.

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The Beaver DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

You would expect a movie that has its lead character going about the business of daily living with a beaver puppet on his hand would be played for comedy.  However, although The Beaver has some funny moments, it is a solid drama about a man struggling with mental illness.

Mel Gibson plays Walter Black, a husband, father and toy company executive who is overwhelmed by a crippling depression and suicide attempts.  When Walter finds a beaver puppet in a dumpster he finally feels free to speak his mind and be himself, but only when the beaver is on his hand and speaks for him.  His wife, Meredith (Jodie Foster) tries to be patient and understanding, even when the beaver joins them in the marital bed.  Their youngest son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) finds he can relate better to his Dad as the beaver makes him more fun.  Teenage son Porter (Anton Yelchin) is not impressed with his father talking through a puppet and wants nothing to do with him. Porter is showing signs of mental health issues of his own.  Pretty classmate, Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) is one of Porter’s few sources of support.  The family struggles to deal with Walters’s illness, until he takes a drastic step to change things.

The Beaver is a powerful and interesting movie about a person spiralling deeper into mental illness.  The acting is superb all around with Mel Gibson giving an especially strong performance.  It’s fascinating to watch him the beaver puppet as the two become one character.  Once again Jodie Foster proves what an intelligent actor and director she is.  It’s too bad that the controversy about Gibson as a person turned people off this excellent film.  The Beaver is worth checking out on DVD, especially if the topic of mental illness interests you.

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The Beaver DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

The Beaver begins with Walter Black (Mel Gibson), a toy company president in the depths of depression, emotionally distant to his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster), teenage son Porter (Anton Yelchin) and younger son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart). Despite competent management by the vice president (Cherry Jones) the firm is sinking fast without his leadership. After months of failed medications and therapy, Meredith reluctantly kicks him out. Emptying his trunk to make room for a case of booze, Walter randomly grabs a beaver hand puppet from the dumpster. After being knocked out in a botched suicide attempt, he is revived by the puppet on his left arm speaking in a strange Cockney (or perhaps Australian) accent. With Walter alone essentially mute, the beaver provides enough emotional detachment to allow him to communicate through it. This works quite well for a while. Henry embraces the beaver right away, and Meredith is glad to get her husband back in spite of it. Renewed enthusiasm for his company and media attention result in a successful launch of beaver-themed toys.

Porter, however, will have none of it. An extremely bright student making easy cash ghostwriting papers for classmates, he is being paid by the star cheerleader Norah (Jennifer Lawrence) to come up with her valedictory address. His research pulls up a painful past that she is forced to come to terms with. Meanwhile, terrified that he might turn out like his father, Porter has been systematically shedding all the habits that they share, and is mortified by Walter’s beaver persona.  Eventually, Meredith attempts to wean Walter off the beaver, but he is not ready and hits rock bottom again, requiring drastic action to come back.

Made almost two years ago but only recently out in very limited release, The Beaver has earned less than 5% of its costs so far in the U.S. Everyone, Mel Gibson probably more than most, knows that he has been a jerk, but that is a dumb reason to ignore this film. If anything, Gibson’s brilliant performance is informed by his personal experience, as is evident on his own face and that of the amazingly expressive puppet. The rest of the cast is also strong, especially Yelchin, Foster and Lawrence. The sensitive script strikes a fine balance between quirky (as in Lars and the Real Girl) and disturbing, tilting a bit too much to the latter for some, reminding me at points of Psycho (multiple personality) and Black Swan (self-mutilation). It is a tribute to the courage and determination of director Jodie Foster that this difficult topic could be addressed in such a powerful way.

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Consensus: Held together by a brilliant performance from Mel Gibson, director Jodie Foster’s The Beaver is an honest character study of a man on the edge that offers a raw look at the devastating effects of depression and mental illness.  *** (Out of 4)

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