I found myself being completely infuriated by a movie as I sat alone in a theater counting reels and wanting to be anywhere else but a theater today. Sadly enough, by the time many of you read this film review of The Beaver, I will have moved on to much bigger and better things. I’ve chosen to post date this review for The Beaver release on DVD, so that perhaps I can save people from making the same mistakes that I did and have a horrible movie night.
For those that don’t know, this wannabe indie film features Mel Gibson as Walter, a mentally ill person who decides to transform his life and rekindle his strained relationships through what he calls a therapeutic beaver puppet that he refuses to take off his hand. His family struggles to cope with his new found furry friend and Walter himself goes through a breakthrough and another downward spiral in his never ending bout with mental illness.
I can’t hide it, at least on first viewing I hated this movie. The big reason is the characters. You hate Walter and find him to be a self absorbed jerk that isn’t lovable at all. You should spend the whole film feeling bad for the character, as he suffers from mental illness but instead all you can do is laugh at how stupid the whole premise is. To make matters worse they put Gibson in the role, a man who in real life many believe has his own bouts with mental stability as well. It’s sad, but aside from a beaver puppet constantly on his hand, I couldn’t help but think this entire tale was just a day of hanging out with the real Mel Gibson and family. The only thing that kept me from knowing that this wasn’t a real life Gibson outburst was the beaver puppet never said any anti semetic remarks, or called any cops vulgar names. I guess he didn’t jump into any long verbally abusive rants before demanding oral sex either- so maybe his character isn’t quite that sick after all.
As a side plot we have the tale of Gibson’s on screen son who can pretty much be summed up as We Bentley’s character from American Beauty but only 5000 times more irritating. He’s a whinny self centered jerk that wants you to believe that he is just misunderstood. But instead just like his father he is borderline mentally unstable himself. We get a vision of this in his actions, especially his antics where he bangs his head on the wall until he breaks through his wall and the side of the house. The director and writers want you to feel for his troubles and having to deal with an eccentric father figure, but all that self pity that this character exudes just makes you care even less.
Perhaps what is worst about this film is the way that they treat mental illness. In The Beaver mental illness is seen as a one note joke. For its entire run time it mocks schizophrenic and depression tendencies, and would be enough to make anyone who suffers from any sort of mental illness furious. From start to finish they try to make this whole scenario “quirky” and “weird” instead of making any real social commentary on the true battle and fight one goes through if they suffer from mental illness. As a film maker you have a chance to work with Mel Gibson, a man who has his own alleged bouts with depression, sobriety and a laundry list of mental quirks. Gibson could have used this film as a way of helping others understand the struggles that people with mental illness go through. Instead they just have Gibson act out the character as one long drawn out punchline.
This film has all the make up of a wannabe Indie film but is made by mainstream people who are trying to be indie directors. Under the hands of Jodie Foster as director, The Beaver tries to be something that it isn’t and in turn just seems like a disjointed mess that feels fake in every way. From a hipster soundtrack to every quirky cinematography trick that has made up every indie from the last 10 years, The Beaver brings nothing new to the table. In fact it feels like they are actually spitting on the hard work of all Indie directors that have gone before them.