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Home Reviews Cinema reviews Review: The Beaver
Review: The Beaver Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 13:06
Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence
Certificate: 15

Brave. Bold. Brown. Furry. All of these words could be used to described Jodie Foster's Beaver. But it's not as warm and fuzzy as you might expect. In fact, Jodie Foster's Beaver is an untidy mess.

We first meet Walter (Mel) at the height of his depression. His career has gone down the pan, his son (Yelchin) worries he's turning into his dad, and his life is an ink stain that blackens everything. We even get a voiceover to tell us exactly that: "Walter's life is an ink stain that blackens everything," it drones, over an unsubtle shot of an ink stain blackening everything.

Popping pills, downing booze and sleeping all day, Walter's in a seriously bad way - and his wife Meredith (Foster) knows it. And so he gets kicked out of the family home and carries on drinking in a nearby motel. At which point he finds a hand puppet in a skip. Naturally, he puts it on. And starts talking like Ray Winstone.

Walter's new furry friend quickly takes charge, ordering him out of bed and on with his life. Inevitably, his failing toy company starts to make a profit with a beaver-inspired toy, and his wife lets him back into her bed. But every time you think The Beaver is turning into a warm-hearted comedy-drama, it jumps back over to the serious side of the dam.

In a way, it's to Kyle Killen's credit that his first-time script never quite goes in the direction you expect, but the film doesn't know what it wants to be. The Beaver's offbeat premise opens up a vein of quirky humour. But while shots of a beavered-up Walter showering and having sex are clearly designed for laughs, Foster's direction keeps things adamantly sober. Even when a third act twist arrives that verges on B-movie horror - a tonal shift that's stitched on with big, fat, visible seams. 

The film's saving grace is, of course, Mel Gibson. He's believably vulnerable as the muted family man, communicating sadness with his eyes while chucking out one-liners through his perky, buck-toothed buddy. 

The other cast members are equally solid. Foster supports without stealing the show, while Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence get a romantic subplot that deserves its own movie - mainly because here it's just rushed and corny. Two troubled youngsters who use graffiti and post-it notes to express their grief? It's a waste of both their talents. 

As hard as the actors try, things just don't ring true, from Foster's eager acceptance of Mel back into the house to her son's habit of head-butting his bedroom wall every night, which somehow goes unnoticed, even when a giant hole appears in the building. Then there's the fact that Walter keeps rubbing a puppet that he found in a rubbish bin all over his youngest son's face - any emotional conflict between Walter's family and his excessively hairy hand gets overshadowed by worries of when he last washed the germ-ridden animal.

If it embraced the dark comedy of its situation, ditched the high school antics, and stopped trying to be such a confrontational drama, The Beaver could have been a cult success. Despite Mel Gibson's superb screen presence, it's hard to shake the suspicion that like his hand, The Beaver has burrowed a little too far up its own rear end. 


A movie in sore need of a trim, Jodie Foster's Beaver is an untidy mess. 


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