The Beaver: ****

Running time: 91 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis:  A once successful toy executive and family man, Walter Black (Gibson) is now clinically depressed and ready to end it all. But when an unwanted puppet ends up on his hand, it takes over his life and begins to turn his fortunes around.

 

There has been lots of coverage regarding this movie due to the unpleasant stories last year surrounding the main star Mel Gibson. This is unfortunate as not only is The Beaver a  great film, but Gibson’s performance is the best one that he has ever accomplished in his thirty year career.

 

  This film has been badly marketed though as the first impression given by the trailers and the poster is that it is a comedy. While there are black comedic elements throughout, it is more of a compelling drama. The funny parts are only when Mad Mel is having a conversation with the hand puppet. Many critics have ridiculed the choice of using a cockney accent for the beaver, but it does work very well.

 

  The story does suffer a little whenever the attention is turned away from Walter and his family. There is a subplot revolving around his teenager son  Porter (Anton Yelchin) and his new girlfriend an ex-graffiti artist (Jennifer Lawrence) called Norah, which is tedious and cliched at best. It would have been more powerful and interesting to centre on Walter Black for most of the movie.

 

  Jodie Foster’s direction appears rather pedestrian and unconfident in her approach to the material. Where she does appear to excel is with the performances not only Gibson, but with her whole cast. At the end of the day it is really Mel’s film, it is really difficult to tell if he is giving the performance of a lifetime or dramatically having a mental breakdown in front of the camera. It could be a bit of both worlds who knows.

 

For some audiences it may be a bit of a struggle with the story’s bipolar structure and difficult subject matter. But people who have suffered with depression at some time of their lives will sympathise maybe not with Gibson, but definitely with his character and his family. The film is flawed,  but it is also a brave piece of filmmaking with a strong central performance. If this is what Gibson can give to the film world, it would be ashame if this was his last role.

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

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