Jodie Foster's curious movie The Beaver has the added burden of having its star, Mel Gibson, playing a character too uncomfortably close to his public face.
It involves a depressed toy manufacturer, Walter Black (Gibson), who, after failing to commit suicide, begins communicating through a hand puppet, known as the Beaver, that he found in a trash dump.
Gibson, as we know, has had incidents of public drunkenness (although he has reportedly been sober for years). Recent reports chronicling his court battles with his ex-girlfriend have revealed fits of temper. In The Beaver, we see Gibson's Walter both inebriated and in rage, which might make some people uneasy.
But if you can see past the tabloid headlines, the film is a well-acted story of a modern dysfunctional family trying to come to grips with the father's mental illness.
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Heading that well-acted part is Gibson himself, who gives the Beaver an Aussie working-class accent. It's a strange relationship: A tongue-tied Walter gives over his entire personality to this ratty puppet.
At times, it's hard to figure if Walter is in control or it's the other way around. It's also hard to see why his wife, Meredith (Foster), is trying to make the marriage work. Their two sons are conflicted.
The younger, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart), loves his dad but knows he's nutty as a fruitcake. The older, Porter (Anton Yelchin), resents his father. As much as the teen denies he's like his dad, Porter begins to worry that insanity is in the genes, which interferes with his budding romance with Norah (Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence).
Obvious at times in both its story and direction, The Beaver has interesting, emotional, even funny moments. And Gibson — as he has shown in Lethal Weapon and The Road Warrior — is good at playing men on the edge.
The DVD includes commentary by Foster.
The Beaver retails for $26.99 or $30.49 Blu-ray.