Posted June 1, 2011 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in B
 
 

Beaver


When Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster got together in Maverick (1994) they were both big stars and respected actors. They had also both just completed their directorial debuts

When Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster got together in Maverick (1994) they were both big stars and respected actors. They had also both just completed their directorial debuts (Gibson with The Man Without a Face and Foster with Little Man Tate). Of course, the following year Gibson stormed the Oscars with Braveheart, and while he never really fully became Hollywood’s golden boy he did become one of its most successful independent filmmakers through Icon Productions, which until the end of 2008 also ran the distribution company of the same name. Foster’s career in front of or behind the camera never went to the same heights as Gibson’s, but she was always seen as an intelligent actress and filmmaker. She also never grabbed the headlines in the same way Mel did, either, but the pair remained friends after their Maverick experience.

When Foster took on The Beaver, the story of a family man with severe depression who finds redemption by expressing himself through a hand puppet, Gibson seemed like a logical choice, despite the fact that he was practically persona non grata in Hollywood, after a series of outbursts in public such as the drunken tirade to a policewoman that had him labelled as misogynistic and anti-Semitic, and the taped verbal abuse of his girlfriend (which may have been fabricated to further discredit him – he did star in Conspiracy Theory). While misogyny is paid lip service, it is not really seen as a Hollywood crime (if it was most of its films wouldn’t see the (green) light of day), but speaking out against Jews is a sure way to get yourself in the bad books. Gibson had already upset the Hebrew community with The Passion of the Christ, implying that the Jews crucified their Messiah, and as a devout Catholic that is not such an extraordinary stand for Gibson to take, although as a Roman Catholic he doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge the Romans’ part in it.

Unfortunately, Gibson’s presence in the film has certainly had an adverse effect on its box-office takings in the US as they don’t seem ready to forgive him yet – something Jews and, ironically, Catholics aren’t very good at doing. It is a shame that audiences haven’t seen this film because not only is it very well acted by the four leads (Gibson, Foster, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence), but also a moving and at times funny screenplay that tackles a very serious issue of an invisible disease. Given the amount of time and money Americans spend on therapy, self-help books and groups it is surprising they are avoiding a film that addresses depression without making light of it, despite the film’s premise. Or is it they don’t want to look in the mirror that reflects their own instability and prefer to opt for the inane comedy sequels and CGI-enhanced blockbusters?

The Beaver may have received a ten-minute ovation at its screening in Cannes but its real worth falls somewhere between the French adulation and the American aversion. Gibson knows something about depression, reportedly being a manic-depressive, and this certainly informs his performance. There are certainly some Lethal Weapon moments and on more than one occasion it is like watching an aged Riggs in one of his suicidal moments. Anton Yelchin as the son and Jennifer Lawrence as his unrequited love interest are both superb, and Yelchin perfectly captures the teenage angst of not wanting to turn out like his father, but does so in his efforts to avoid it. Anyone with surly teenagers, or someone going through that phase ,will be able to identify with him.

There is one nagging question; where does a depressed American man find the Aussie/Cockney accent for the Beaver, unless he is schizophrenic as well? On the up side, it does give the Beaver its own personality. Even if the movie does tend towards Hollywood cliché and sentimentality in places, the acting and directing save it from being overly mawkish.


Marcia Degia - Publisher

 
Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.