The Beaver

Ho, ho, ho. Mel Gibson's pitiful attempt at humor in "The Beaver."

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


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on May 12, 2011, in New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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