Who does depression hurt? Everybody. Ordinarily, this would mean to include everyone directly involved with a person suffering from depression but thanks to Jodie Foster, now depression can also hurt everyone who comes to see her latest directorial effort, THE BEAVER, as well. While I’m sure she was well intentioned, Foster’s eager beaver preoccupation with rehabilitating the image of her maligned co-star, Mel Gibson, must have distracted her from seeing that the film’s lack of focus was ultimately gnawing away at its own foundation the whole time.
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Written by Kyle Killen
Directed by Jodie Foster
Starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence
The Beaver: Everybody needs a friend, Walter, and you've got me.
It is no secret that THE BEAVER is meant to be a prestige picture designed to remind the filmgoing public that they once loved Gibson for his talent and charisma, both of which have returned fully to form in THE BEAVER. While Gibson may successfully handle the material, this does not mean the material itself is doing him any good. Gibson is Walter Black, a family man with a successful career who just can’t seem to be happy. He is hopelessly depressed, as we are reminded frequently at the film’s onset, and he has tried every therapy known to man to fix himself save for one. Up until now, he has never considered giving into his depression and just allowing it to take over his life. Enter the beaver.
After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Walter snaps and begins living through the beaver, a puppet that has seen better days but that now rests comfortably on Walter’s left hand and speaks in a delightfully chipper Australian accent. Apparently, the inherently playful nature of the beaver makes it possible for Walter to instantaneously shelf his bigger issues and function successfully again in society, despite society’s discomfort with his unorthodox manner of expression. Gibson goes back and forth between his two personas with impressive ease, finding himself in some rather uncomfortable predicaments. Still, the tone of the film gets confused – is this psychotic lapse meant to be jovial? The underlying quirkiness borders on offensive at times, as it undermines the seriousness of the situation at hand.
The beaver places a convenient wall between Walter and all he encounters, protecting him from hurt and pain. Foster’s oversimplification of the subject matter takes that same wall and puts it up between THE BEAVER itself and it’s audience. We are never allowed in to the movie, which makes some sense considering all the characters have their own metaphoric beavers to protect themselves as well. The insinuation though that if we would just let down our guards and allow people in, no matter how difficult that may be, is almost insulting to those of us who still walk the world alone. The fact that the advice comes from a puppet is what ultimately damns the whole thing.