POSTING BY JB MADDAWG
A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to catch a movie with a few friends that I’d been wanting to see for quite some time. Normally, I’d shy away from a film that has at the center a plot about a family coming apart at the seams and mental illness as an issue, since my folks dragged me to Ordinary People years ago. I’m not sure why, it’s not exactly a movie my parents would see on their own, much less drag a child to see. All I can guess is my dad got mixed up in the theater and thought we were entering the door for Smokey and the Bandit II.
But I digress. Mental illness. Family issues. When I first saw the trailer for the Jodie Foster directed movie, The Beaver starring Mel Gibson, I was left speechless. Hollywood studios idea of originality at present is remaking Spiderman with a little less red in the costume, so this caught my attention. I was intrigued to see that Gibson was not on-screen screaming things like “gimme back my son, you sonofabitch” or insulting an entire religious base with broad strokes, but the thing that drove me to this film is the fact that Gibson speaks only through a beaver puppet, for two entire hours.
Gibson plays Walter Black, a CEO of a toy company that is battling depression, when his wife played by Jodie Foster, who also directed the movie, tosses him out on his ear. Black tries to off himself, and in a drunken stupor, finds a beaver puppet in a dumpster. Ordinarily, finding a rodent toy in the garbage would have no significance to a suicidal passer-by, but Black decides that after his numerous treatments for his illness, donning the puppet will cure him, mainly because the plot calls for it. Yeah, it’s all downhill from there.
For the next hour and forty-five, Gibson speaks through the puppet, which my pal Big Angry said “looks like Godzilla”, in his actual Australian accent and the hilarity ensues. The beaver prompts Black to turn the toy company around, fix his disconnect with his children, and have sex with his wife. Yes, you read that correctly. Sex with his wife, beaver puppet included. Trust me, there a few things on film as disturbing as a menage a trois featuring Foster, Gibson and a googly-eyed beaver puppet. The film doesn’t dance around the event, and there is an amazing postcoital huffing and puffing scene with the actors and said rodent toy. Fetish freaks, rejoice.
To give the viewer a break from puppet antics, a completely uninteresting sub-plot featuring the family’s eldest son has the lad writing papers for other high school students for a price. He befriends the school’s valedictorian/cheerleader and the two form a relationship based on the death of the girl’s brother. Don’t ask me, I didn’t write the screenplay. It has almost no impact on the plot and the scenes featuring the teens abruptly crashes the film, killing any momentum the movie may have had.
Whatever Jodie Foster’s message this film has is bound to be lost on the viewer. In one moment, we are encouraged to laugh and love with the beaver, then she quickly turns on her audience, making us feel horrible for laughing at mental illness. In fact, I’m not exactly sure anyone associated with the film did any research on depression at all, and the idea that no medication, psychiatrist or aroma therapy can help Gibson’s character is quite Scientologist of them.
If all this isn’t bad enough, Foster made a horrible choice hand-picking Gibson to play the lead, a man who isn’t exactly going to promote feelings of sympathy from pretty much anyone. Of course, Gibson doesn’t go off on any rants about the Jews and no one in the film is referred to as “sugar tits”, but trust me, there is one small payoff in this movie. Walter Black has to make a choice between his family and his new-found beaver friend, who isn’t going quietly. A battle ensues, blood is spilt and the epic battle of man v. beaver puppet is one for the ages. Worth the one dollar Redbox rental, alone.
Disturbing and artsy, edgy and stupid all at the same time, The Beaver will make you look at your hand in an entirely different way. Like, without the need for a children’s toy to get through life’s problems. Now, a duck puppet would have totally pulled this thing off.