Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Reel Review: THE BEAVER

Fifteen years ago, a drama directed by, and starring Jodie Foster with Mel Gibson would have been a very intriguing draw. These days, not so much; Foster has been hit-or-miss as of late, and Gibson has managed to torpedo his own career with his personal meltdowns. In THE BEAVER, Foster’s 4th directorial effort, both actors manage to prove that they both have life left in them. And all they had to do was add a sock puppet.

Edward Black (Mel Gibson), is a seriously depressed man who is sulking and sleeping his life away. On the day he is thrown out of his home by his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster), Edward finds a sock puppet-beaver in a dumpster. After a night of drinking, Edward finds The Beaver on his left hand, and projects his positive sides and emotions into his new friend, while distancing himself from his negative persona. The radical move angers his older son Porter (Anton Yelchin), who is already distancing himself from his father, and enthralls the imagination of his younger son Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart)

THE BEAVER is Edward’s story, as he struggles to overcome his sickness and find his lost self. It’s a tired tale that is given new life courtesy of The Beaver. When Edward speaks through The Beaver, he switches to an Aussie accent, and he sinks back into his lifeless self when he cannot use the puppet. It’s a fascinating watch that entertains as much as it does concern the audience.

Foster’s direction is a curious study; she seems to be a hands-off director. There are no eye-popping camera moves or unique angles; everything is plainly shot and framed. It often feels like there could have been more creativity with The Beaver puppet. Taking a deeper look however, it’s clear that Foster intended Gibson to just do his thing in front of the camera. It’s not a one man show by far, as the strong script adds excellent support in the form of Porter’s side-story and struggles, and the dissolution of a once happy family.

Acting is superb all the way through. Foster fits the role of a struggling mother perfectly, and Yelchin’s brooding and tortured soul routine, while not a brand new shtick, feels fresh and original.

Gibson’s performance absolutely steals the show. Not only does he have to handle the puppet’s actions throughout, but he is smart enough to let his own face and body language mirror The Beaver. It is a remarkable and fascinating performance, and proof that Gibson may be ready for the third phase of his career.

The finale, while offering tragedy and hope at the same time, brings about plenty of shock and emotion. It is a smart finish to an already smart film, one that finds a way to bring a heavy seriousness to a very quirky premise. Jodie Foster’s BEAVER is worth seeing.


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