The father and breadwinner of a shattered family tries to put his personal and professional lives together again - with the help of a hand puppet in the shape of a beaver. This is the plot of actress-director Jodie Foster’s (“Silence of the Lambs,” “Little Man Tate”) first directing effort in several years and, despite some flaws, it has some powerful moments.
Walter Black (Mel Gibson) has lost his way. As the film begins, the toy business his father left him has lost its drive, his marriage to his caring, but confused wife, Meredith (Miss Foster), has dissolved to the point where Walter’s no longer living at home and the two barely communicate. The couple’s two sons have no idea how to deal with either of their parents or their own frustrations.
Just when it seems Walter has hit rock bottom, he discovers a way to communicate with the outside world in the only way he can. Finding a beat-up beaver hand puppet near his company’s Dumpster, he finds his “voice” through the toy, as it begins to say the things to everyone around Walter that he’s long needed to say.
Miss Foster and screenwriter Kyle Killen have crafted an intriguing tale, one that takes an unorthodox approach to the familiar dysfunctional family drama. Having Mr. Gibson’s Walter take on a roughhewn Australian accent as the puppet’s speaking voice adds a certain touch of humor to the proceedings, despite the dark place Walter and his family find themselves in.
There are moments in the story that almost cry out for a slightly absurdist twist for the plot, since the obvious answer to what’s happening on-screen would, frankly, stop the plot dead in its tracks. The lack of this offbeat touch robs “The Beaver” of an edge that would have made it a really special film.
What does work here are the performances. Mr. Gibson manages to make one forget, for a time at least, the muck he’s made of his career in recent years to deliver a vivid portrait of a man desperate to find his way. Miss Foster is solid as his wife, though the script doesn’t go far enough in shaping a whole character for her to inhabit.
Two very memorable turns are done by Anton Yelchin (“Fright Night,” 2011) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”), Walter and Meredith’s oldest son and a young woman he becomes involved with, respectively. Miss Foster’s skillful direction brings out the best in both of these talented young actors.
Extras on the Blu-ray edition of “The Beaver” include two deleted scenes and a making-of documentary.
Though it is not the kind of triumphant comeback effort its leading man would have hoped for, “The Beaver” has enough compelling moments to make it a fascinating, if flawed, effort.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for profanity, violence, drug and sexual content.View Entire Story
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