Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Failed Attempt At Redemption Through Puppetry

THE BEAVER (Dir. Jodie Foster, 2011)

So, here's this film's story - a toy company CEO is in a deep dark funk. He's uncommunicative with his wife and kids, and his business is faltering. His wife kicks him out of the house. While discarding some of his things, he finds an old ratty beaver puppet in a dumpster and puts it on his left arm, During a drunken night in his hotel room with 2 failed suicide attempts, he crashes onto the floor with a TV falling down on him.

When he awakes his puppet gives him a pep talk, and immediately he starts to get his life back together. "The Beaver," as it wants to be called, is now calling the shots to the puzzlement of his family and the employees.

Got that? Not sure I do. What makes it so hard to swallow is that Mel Gibson plays the despondent puppeteer. Gibson's popularity has waned in recent years because of famously controversial behavior, and part of this film's hype is that it could re-boot his career.

Don't count on it. This film, inexplicably directed by Jodie Foster (also appearing as Gibson's wife), is a dreary experience that has no insights into depression, delusion, or beaver puppets.

You might expect a comedy from a scenario where a man communicates only through a puppet, with a thick Cockey accent, but as The Beaver says at one point: "There's nothing funny about it."

There's a subplot involving Gibson's son (Anton Yelchin) dealing with teen angst through a budding romance with Jennifer Lawrence (WINTER'S BONE) as a valedictorian cheerleader who hires him to write her graduation speech. It really doesn't fit, but then nothing in this film fits.

The implausibility factor here is overwhelming, and not just from the basic premise. When Gibson develops and markets a bestselling wood-cutting kit, it hits such a false note that it's deafening. Likewise Foster's one-note reaction to her husband's dementia.

An unpleasant sex scene with Foster getting creeped out by the puppet is another scene that doesn't gel.

I'm not a fan of Gibson, but there were times his performance showed real effort and passion. However it's in vain as this is strained, self conscious material that never clicks.

In the last third, THE BEAVER takes some disturbing and drastic turns that don't add up, especially when considering how tidy the ending is.

What first time screenwriter Kyle Killen, and Foster were going for here beats me.

Basically this film is a bunch of bad ideas desperately assembled in a lame attempt to form an inspirational story.

It's a failure as a comeback project for Gibson, and will probably be only remembered as a weird misguided movie that came and went with little fanfare. That is, if it's remembered at all.

More later... 

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