Tag Archives: The Beaver

Review: The Beaver

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence

Director: Jodie Foster

‘You’re nothing without me, Walter. Nothing. I’m the only part of you that works.

After two years of severe depression, toy executive Walter Black retreats completely and begins communicating with his long-suffering family through a glove puppet. Meanwhile, his estranged elder son fights to avoid becoming his father.

Having been trapped in limbo for over a year, waiting for the dust to settle on Mel Gibson’s public meltdown, The Beaver is finally released into the world. And it’s hard to imagine a more fitting role for Gibson to have chosen, even if it was chosen and performed before the event.

Walter Black, so lost in a black hole from which he feels there is no escape that he is forced to hide within an alternative persona, is such a perfect fit for Gibson that it’s hard to believe that he was second choice for the part and equally hard to believe that original choice Jim Carrey could have brought half the pathos that Gibson delivers to The Beaver. With every flicker of his eyes, every hunch of his shoulders, Gibson portrays a man trapped in his own personal Hell, while still managing to mine the ridiculous premise for nuggets of comedy. Foremost in this regard is the English cockney accent Gibson utilises for the beaver puppet itself. Apparently coached by Ray Winstone, you would swear in several places that Winstone was dubbing the puppet himself, so accurate is Gibson’s delivery. It’s the ideal voice for a puppet that becomes increasingly sinister as the movie progresses.

The always excellent Foster who, like Gibson, is no stranger to acting and directing in tandem, turns in a solid performance as Walter’s exasperated wife, torn between wanting to escape her husband’s destructive condition and wanting to save him from it. Anton Yelchin is not entirely sympathetic as Walter’s teenage son, who keeps a list of similarities between himself and his father with the intention of ridding himself of each one. It’s a sub-plot that, like The Beaver itself, is weakened by skipping over the depth, never quite fulfilling its potential.

Where the movie as a whole fails is in its rather half-hearted exploration of Walter’s underlying depression, or analysis of why he chooses to disengage from himself the way he does. That he creates a persona through a glove puppet for his own rehabilitation is a fascinating conceit. It deserves to have been explored with a little more depth, rather than simply rely solely on Gibson’s nonetheless accomplished performance.

I was going to make a gag about hands in beavers but this is a family site. Sort of.

The Beaver is by no means a bad movie. Foster has an assured touch behind the camera and the movie has real heart at its core. It is also anchored by one of Gibson’s best performances, without which it would certainly have been less of a success. By turns heart-breaking, sinister and funny, rarely has an actor seemed more at home in a part. However, the titular character itself never quite manages to become more than a puppet on the end of Walter’s arm, which seems like a failing given the importance it plays.

Ultimately, The Beaver gets caught up in trying not to be too much of any one thing. Torn between the tragic and the comedic aspects of Walter’s tale, it never quite reaches the heights of either.

Rating – 3 Stars

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The 2010 Celluloid Zombie Awards

And you thought the award season was over. Not so. On the last day of 2010, I’ve decided to hand out a small series of prestige awards to some of the most notable people, events and movies of the industry year. Trust me, the Oscars will be cleared from the shelves to make room for these babies. Probably.

Welcome to the Celluloid Zombie Awards 2010!

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The Tina Turner Award for Sticking It To Your Ex

Kathryn Bigelow

After years of being ignored by Oscar, watching ex-husband James Cameron win enough of them to form a small army with Titanic, Kathryn Bigelow finally enjoyed some sweet times when The Hurt Locker beat Cameron’s Avatar to both the Best Picture and Best Director awards, at the Oscars and the BAFTAS. Both Academies enjoyed a rare moment of sense and sagacity in choosing  Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the Best Director action figure in the Oscar’s history. Well done, Kathryn. Have another golden paper-weight for the shelf.

No doubt the Oscars will resume normal service in 2011 and hand Best Picture to Transformers 3. Meanwhile, James Cameron is lobbying the Academy for the introduction of a Best Expensive Cartoon With Blue People In It category, in the hopes of a sure-fire win with Avatar 2.

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The Keanu Reeves Award for Disastrous Casting

The Beaver

Poor Jodie Foster. For her third movie as director, Foster turned to wacky Mel Gibson to play the depressed Toy Company CEO who begins communicating through a hand-puppet. With shooting completed and a 2010 release date set, Gibson promptly, and very publicly, imploded. He decided to start communicating through an answer machine and single-handedly made himself the most unpopular actor since Fatty Arbuckle. Since this could spell death for the project, Summit Entertainment promptly pulled The Beaver’s release date, putting the movie ‘in a holding pattern’ in the hopes that the smell around Mel would waft away. At the time of writing, Summit Entertainment have tentatively announced a release date of Spring 2011 for The Beaver, no doubt hoping that Gibson can keep his mouth shut for the next three or four months. Foster must be wishing she’d dialled Harrison Ford.

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The Stephen Sommers Award for Screwing Up a Good Idea

The Expendables

Bring together all the biggest names of action cinema from the last thirty years for a single movie and you have a sure thing, right? Wrong. Stallone’s attempt to create the ultimate action movie merely proved to be a successful exercise in exhuming the decomposing careers of several stars only to shoot them in the head and re-bury them. Just making sure they were really dead, I guess. Unintentionally the worst zombie movie ever made. I’m tempted to change this site’s name to Celluloid Expendable.

The script was apparently written by a child and several action stars all wanting to get their fair bite of the cherry. The dialogue is head-in-hands dreadful, with such cracking lines as, “We are the shadow, the smoke in your eyes, the ghosts that hide in the night”. Stallone says this just before running around shouting and blowing shit up. Because that’s what shadows do.

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The J.J. Abrams Award for Making Television Watchable

The Walking Dead

Zombie movies have long been a genre all their own, with the undead lurching around the cinemas of the world for decades (and in my town that’s just the audience). This year, however, the disease spread beyond the multiplexes and those wacky walking corpses finally got their own TV show, care of Frank Darabont and TV channel AMC.

Based on a comic book (let’s face it, what isn’t based on a comic book these days), The Walking Dead’s tale of survivors in a post-zombified America aired to record numbers despite being the shortest season for a TV show since Joss Whedon last announced a project. However, the success of The Walking Dead guaranteed a second season, scheduled to air October 2011, which is an eternity for those of us ravenous for more than the taster offered by a paltry six episodes.

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The Darth Vader Award for Making a Memorable Entrance

Chloe Moretz

Forget the Chinese Tiger, 2010 was The Year of the Chloe Moretz. The young actress has been around for a little while, but this was the year when Moretz truly entered the radars of movie-goers everywhere. With engaging turns in no less than three acclaimed movies in 2010 (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kick-Ass and Let Me In) I was almost considering her for The Award for Attempting to Appear in Every Movie Made.

However, it’s for Moretz’s first appearance in costume as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass that Chloe wins her Celluloid Zombie Award. Let’s face it, a 10-year-old girl with purple hair acrobatically carving up a roomful of drug-dealers makes for a memorable enough scene. But give her the line, “Okay, you c**ts, let’s see what you can do now”, and you have a jaw-dropping moment of gleefully irresponsible cinema fun.

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The Dante Alighieri Award for Burning in Development Hell

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson’s prequel to Lord of the Rings started 2010 with Jackson as Producer and Guillermo Del Toro as Director. Ian McKellen (Gandalf) had indicated that shooting would start in July, which was put on hold when MGM’s financial troubles hit the project. Del Toro then quit and rumours began circulating about who would replace him. Jackson began casting in July but this hit a snag when several actors unions urged clients to boycott the film due to contract issues. The movie was officially green-lit in October, the union troubles were resolved but ill-feeling from negotiations with the New Zealand Government left The Hobbit looking to relocate. This was solved, leaving the project back where it started, except with Jackson now down to direct. Casting has continued through the rest of the year and it’s starting to look like The Hobbit might have survived its year in Hell. There and back again, indeed.

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Honourary Award for Being My Son’s Favourite Movie of 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Edgar Wright’s third feature under-performed at the box office, but was still one of the most energetic and imaginative movies of the year. It’s here, however, because it’s at the top of my son’s list. And in the slim hope that he’ll let me off for putting it 6th in my own list.

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