SXSW Review: The Beaver
The Beaver is a strong portrait of coping with depression. It’s got a whimsical tone, which makes the dark moments all the more poignant. Jodie Foster shows as a director that you really can make a movie about anything if you do it right. I mean, a guy with a beaver puppet? Come on!
Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is moping through depression. He tries techniques as extreme as self-flagellation and he sleeps all the time. His son Porter (Anton Yelchin) keeps track of all of Walter’s bad habits so he can avoid the same patterns. Walter’s wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) finally kicks him out of the house because he won’t find a successful treatment.
Walter finds a beaver puppet in his trunk and, talking throug the beaver, thwarts his own suicide attempt. The beaver calls himself The Beaver and talks for him in an Australian accent. The Beaver presents this plan to Meredith, who has the normal human reaction, so The Beaver lies and says it’s a doctor’s idea. So she goes with it.
The depression is palpable. Gibson is really effective portraying Walter’s pain with silent looks. He also makes you believe he believes this beaver is talking, even when you can see his lips move. He’s so sincere and determined, that’s even better than playing it straight faced.
There really is a lot you can do with a beaver too. Walter showers with it and blows it dry. He has sex with Meredith wearing it and cuddles with it around her. The Beaver even gives him business success with a wood carving kit that becomes all the rage in toy stores. There’s no end to awkward situations with a beaver.
There’s a teen story between Porter and Nora (Jennifer Lawrence), the school valedictorian with a traumatic past of her own. The film deals with ou buried issues at all levels.
The film gets dark. The beaver is not cute anymore after a while and Walter’s forced it on his family. I wouldn’t say it’s a realistic portrayal of mental illness, but a metaphor for it with the beaver representing a dangerous coping mechanism in cinematic form.