After seeing movies that were innovative and thought provoking during the 12 days of the Tribeca Film Festival, it was a sad reality check to have to return to multiplex fare in the form of “The Beaver.” The friend with whom I saw this movie (his idea, not mine) fell asleep about ten minutes into the film. I was not so fortunate.
“The Beaver” is pat, predictable and boring. It is filled with cheap, obvious sentiment, not to mention characters who are thoroughly uninteresting, save for Jennifer Lawrence, who is absolutely radiant. How sad that this should be Lawrence’s follow up to her Oscar nominated performance in “Winter’s Bone” (2010).
Where to begin? Director Jodie Foster, who also acts in this fiasco, has to retake Directing 101 (if she ever took it in the first place) and learn that, in a movie, it is important to “show” and not just “tell.” The beginning of “The Beaver” has wall-to-wall narration from a never seen narrator who manages to set up the story, and not in a way that is even remotely interesting. There is nothing in the film’s opening sequence to pull the viewer in or even attempt to make him or her care about the film’s characters. We are shown a lot of different shots of the characters and are told anything and everything about them. Yawn!
Mel Gibson plays Walter Black, a man who, we are told, is suffering from depression. His depression is so bad that he and his wife, Meredith (Foster), decide to separate. Soon after, Walter finds a beaver hand puppet and begins to use it as therapy to give distance between him and “the negative aspects of his personality.” The latter description is apropos of Gibson himself, given what is known about his prejudice toward a particular religion and culture. I know that I am supposed to be only concentrating on the artist, and not his personal views, but how interesting when fiction can illuminate truth, however unintentional.
The sight of Gibson walking around with a beaver hand puppet that he attempts to animate and make talk is stupid, annoying, tiresome, beyond childish and unfunny. It might be a different case if Gibson had the charisma to carry this off, as, say, James Stewart in the movie “Harvey” (1950), a charming comedy about a man who believes he has a friend who is an invisible, six-foot tall rabbit. All of which brings me to “The Beaver’s” tone, which runs all over the place, tripping over itself, while attempting to traverse the gamut from humor to darkness.
As if this is not enough, the story of “The Beaver” is poorly motivated and you can tell what is coming from a mile away. The omniscient narrator rejoins us at the, mercifully arrived at, ending to explain everything. Again, Ms. Foster, “show” don’t “tell.”
For those with insomnia “The Beaver” is playing locally at the Regal Cinemas Union Square Stadium 14, 850 Broadway.
“The Beaver,” director Jodie Foster, 2011,
Summit Entertainment, 91 minutes, rated PG-13