The Beaver stars Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. This film is essentially Mel Gibson’s saving grace. The Beaver concerns the audience with the life of Gibson’s character Walter Black. Walter is the head of a toy company and non existent in his own life. He is emotionally unavailable when he is at home with his family and sleepwalking through his life professionally. Walter is eventually kicked out of the house because of how uninvolved he has become in his own life. During a journey to pick up beer he throws away some of the things he feels he doesn’t need anymore and acquires a beaver puppet. Walter eventually gets drunk and the beaver starts talking to him imploring him to get his life back together. Walter uses the beaver as a means of communicating with the rest of the world. Speaking through the puppet inspires Walter to fight for his life but is he past saving? How much good does this beaver puppet do him? These two main questions are explored in detail throughout the films ninety minute running time.
The Beaver is the first directorial effort from Oscar winning actress Jodie Foster. She capably draws the audience into the despair of that is Walter Black’s life. Jodie Foster has a bit of a reduced role as Walter’s wife. Most of her powerful moments include emotional expressions or short conversations and as such her talent as an actress is wasted here. The real star of the film is Mel Gibson. Gibson’s portrayal of Walter Black is exceptional. There aren’t exactly levels of dimension to the character that layer him and make him a well rounded person. Walter only comes to life because of the competing personality he creates to try and save himself. The film works on concerning itself with bringing an apparently very good man out of the dark place he’s thrived in. I should mention that I say apparently because the audience is never shown what Walter Black used to be like. The audience is expected to rely on image cues from pictures and two sentence testimonials about who he used to be. The film alsocontains a minor subplot involving Walter’s teenage son, but it is both uninspired and lazy. The screenwriters would have been more wise to focus part of the plot on Walter’s relationship with his teenage son and where that connection came apart. The film is weak because it refuses to have Walter confront his failed connection with the people around him and instead focuses on his recovery from being emotionless.
The Beaver is one of those rare occasions where an actor gives a great performance but the character he plays isn’t fleshed out enough to make his journey believable. The Beaver should have stayed buried.