The Beaver (2011)
Director: Jodie Foster
Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Lawrence
My Rating: ★1/2, or 3/10
In Short: A muddled, pointless mess; a failure at all it attempts
Jodie Foster’s The Beaver was a film I didn’t expect to be that bad. I was surprised how wrong I was. Despite a promising opening, the film quickly disintegrates into a muddled, pointless mess. The story of a man’s attempts to reconnect via a hand puppet is only momentarily acceptable, and is quickly exaggerated to incredible proportions, turning the film into a laughing stock of misguided, awful scenarios that provoke only regret, and deep sadness for a film that is intended to be serious, but comes across as nothing more than absolutely idiotic.
Released to a curious but bemused festival crowd, The Beaver was doomed from the start. Before people had even seen it, jokes were being cracked about the buzz around “Jodie Foster’s beaver”. The film was also toted as a ‘comeback’ of sorts for disgraced actor Mel Gibson, but it only embarrasses the actor, who gives – Cockney accent aside – one of the worst performances of his career. The film was also intended to have a strong and powerful message for those suffering from mental illness, depression or other such afflictions, but seems to give those aspirations up quickly enough. The Beaver is a failure at all it attempts, and the only reason I’ve given it more than one star out of five is that its intentions are so good-natured that its stunning how terribly wrong they’ve gone.
The actors all know how to act, but are ridiculed by uninspired direction from Foster and above all, a pitifully disgusting script. Watching it, I recalled seeing The Help only a week earlier; both films are goddamn fucking awful, and weren’t even kind enough to allow me to fall asleep. The only major difference between the two is the length: The Beaver is thankfully short, as its plot premise involving the eponymous puppet really goes nowhere, and a completely irrelevant subplot involving Jennifer Lawrence as an intellectual cheerleader who enlists Mel Gibson’s son to write her a speech is useless and serves only to consume time; its conclusion, the reading of the speech, is riddled with clichés and ignorance, and makes for only a pathetic end to a pathetic film.
This is a film that implodes from the inside, caving in until all that is left is dirty, dusty rubble. The shallow performances, which include Gibson’s playing of two equally disturbing characters, Foster’s portrayal of a housewife that sees her playing the same old tired middle-aged woman with virtually no changes or inspirational additions, and Lawrence’s portrayal of the intellectual cheerleader that I very much doubt exists in any form in the real world, are particular lowlights. Perhaps the most insulting scene in the movie is a “three-way” sex-scene montage that is unintentionally hilarious, and kind of sad at the same time; it almost certainly belongs in a different movie altogether. And there is of course the climactic plot twist two-thirds of the way into the movie, which involves Gibson mutilating himself, which too belongs in a completely different film and is a more painful experience for the audience than the character.
As you may have picked up on, The Beaver is a terrible film that trips over itself constantly trying to be better than it is. I still cannot believe I expected it to be good. The plot premise involving the puppet is not dumb, it’s fucking idiotic. The Beaver is a movie that I cringe thinking about, and a sure sign that for Gibson, a comeback is yet to arrive and for Foster, the Oscar on her shelf seems like a distant memory. Trying to find a redeeming thing about this pile of shit is like trying to find hay in a needle-stack: painful, long, boring and, even if the hay is there, pointless.