Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Beaver

The Beaver

Directed by Jodie Foster

Despite his greatest efforts, not even Mel Gibson (who delivers a powerful, emotional performance) can save this picture from it's strange and silly premise.

There is a fine line between dark comedy and drama. The Beaver fails to define itself as one or the other, giving us a blend of humorous moments (which often work well) and surprisingly dark ones, which would have been able to be pulled off, had they not been in such close proximity. Director Jodie Foster seemed unable to decide whether the subject was supposed to be taken seriously or not, giving us an opaque, unrelentingly dark and moody pseudo-comedy.

If you've ever heard of it, I'm sure you are at least aware of the basic concept behind this movie -- a hopelessly depressed man uses a beaver hand-puppet as a means to separate the good and bad aspects of his life, in hopes to make his life tolerable again. At the beginning of the movie we witness his failed suicide attempt, followed shortly by the realization that this beaver puppet has "a life of it's own". I am willing to accept this as a premise for a comedy -- why not? But as the story progresses, there begins a tonal shift that pushes this movie out of the comedy spectrum, and completely into the world drama.

The back-story of his estranged son, who would like nothing more than to have nothing to do with his father could have worked far better than it did. The pieces are all there for a great dysfunctional family drama, but instead Foster takes the path of showing the son's attempted romance with a girl at his school. Take this story away from the main "beaver" plot-line and you could have a perfectly respectable movie. Blended together, you can't help but to feel that they realized halfway through that there wasn't enough material to make a full-length movie, so they added an extra 20-30 minutes of backstory just to fill it out.

There is a heavy focus on the subject of suicide in this movie -- nearly every single character feels like, if left on their own for too long, they might off themselves at any moment. And by making two of the funniest parts in the whole thing (though perhaps unintentionally) focusing on either suicide, or self-mutilation, it's as if they're trying to make suicide into a joke -- I'm sorry, but watching Mel Gibson wrestle with a hand-puppet is funny, despite its dark context.

Now, I realize I have put the most emphasis of what I believe to be the negative aspects of the film, so now I will give you a little bit of the positive: The acting, for one, is great by everyone involved. From Gibson's manic depressive puppeteer, to Yelchin's deeply-troubled teen, and Foster's caring but overbearing wife and mother, the cast is purely fantastic. I suspect that many of the performances will be ignored come Oscar season, but that doesn't take away from the fine acting found in this movie.

In conclusion, The Beaver is both an enormous success (mostly for the actors) and a complete failure. In its inability to form a cohesive structure and tonal balance, we are left feeling slightly empty and disturbed by the time it all comes to an end.


AdamMoody said...

Very nice review dude. I am interested in seeing this, even if it is all over the place.

Rodders said...

The premise makes it seem like a comedy, but from what i've seen and heard, it's more of a drama,m so i can see your problem with it's inability to stick to one tone. Nethertheless, this is a film I would not mind seeing and great review

Nick L. said...

Fantastic review, Jeff! That was the PERFECT length. I should use this as a guideline to how long I should make my own reviews... because I always go overboard with them. HOWEVER, I noticed one grammatical error you would be pedantic enough to want to correct: at the end of the 5th paragraph you use "it's" instead of "its". Just saying.
Anyway, about the movie-- I haven't seen it, but I can see what you mean about it being uneven in tone. I had that feeling from the previews.

Jeff SC said...

@ Adammoody
If you do wind up watching it, I can only hope that you'll enjoy it more than I did ;)

@ Rodders
I certainly wouldn't discourage you from watching it. Thanks for reading

@Nick L.
Thanks Nick, I thought it was a pretty good length for a review myself. As concerning my spelling mistake... Fixed it! Thanks for pointing it out, I do like to avoid grammatical and spelling errors in my blog entries (though they are practically unavoidable). But you should give the movie a shot, it's definitely worth watching.

Thanks all for your comments, I appreciate it!

Jack L said...

Nice work.

I am still undecided about whether I want to see this one or not, I like Jodie Foster but Mel Gibson has never appealed to me much as an actor, even though I do not hate it as many people seem to do these days...

Anonymous said...

I agree whole-heartedly with this review. Felt confused throughout the entire movie about what I was watching. It's difficult for me to watch Mel Gibson talk to and take serious a hand puppet,the comedy mixed with the suicide didn't set well either.