The Beaver is a 2011 serious film about a man in the depths of overwhelming depression, and the devastating impact that this has on his family. However, for some reason the movie studio decided to advertise this film as a “Fun Comedy”.
Mel Gibson plays Walter Black, a man who is the chief executive of a toy company, has a wonderful family, yet for some unknown reason is clinically depressed. He has seen psychiatrists and is taking medications, but his symptoms just get worse and worse. He gets to the point where he communicates with no one at work or at home, and spends as much of the time as he can sleeping. As a consequence, his company and his family are both in ruins.
Walter then finds a hand puppet of a beaver in a dumpster. He begins wearing it and communicating with everyone though the puppet. Walter lies and tells people this is his psychiatrist’s idea.
The Beaver is an alternate personality for Walter. The Beaver is aggressive and driven, but also cruel and domineering. The Beaver now takes charge and Walter has no voice at all.
Jodie Foster plays Walter’s wife Meridith. She reacts exactly the way any person would whose spouse is sinking into insanity. She is worried for Walter but also is scared of him; and of the impact he is having on their children.
In addition to the main plot, there is an even more interesting sub-plot with Walter’s teenage son Peter (excellently played by Anton Yelchin). He is a brilliant student, who is worried that he will go crazy like his father when he gets older.
Peter forms a connection with Nora, a girl in his senior class. Nora is a star athlete, cheerleader and class valedictorian. She is the type of person that is supposed to be wonderfully happy in High School – except that she is not. Nora has dark secrets of her own, and this is what binds Nora and Peter together. Nora is played by Jennifer Lawrence. The Beaver came out before The Hunger Games, so Jennifer Lawrence was not yet a household name. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent in this film, as she is in all her roles.
We watched The Beaver thinking that it was going to be a stupid comedy that we could write a funny article about. Instead it turned out to be a detailed study of Depression and Schizophrenia. It was like a weird independent film that somehow a major studio got tricked into making.
We do recommend this movie, as long as you go into it knowing what you are getting into. It is not a movie for kids to see. Because of the beaver puppet, the studio marketed it as if it were a kids film. It is the first time we have seen Mel Gibson play anything this serious since his early work in The Year of Living Dangerously.
We give this movie 3 Stars ***