The Beaver (2011)
Directed by Jodie Foster
Written by Kyle Killen
Produced by Steve Golin, Keith Redmon, Ann Ruark, Dianne Dreyer, Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei, Paul Green, Jonathan King, Jeff Skoll
Starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones, Riley Thomas Stewart, Zachary Booth
It never quite transcends its sappiness or absurdity, but Foster’s third directorial undertaking fixates with psychodramatic peculiarity that’s anchored by its discerning leads. Crippling despondency has immobilized a businessman (Gibson), isolated his long-suffering wife (Foster) and sons (Yelchin, Stewart), and nearly destroyed the toy company that he inherited. His attempted suicide fails, after which he finds solace and success by communicating with everyone through a manual puppet fashioned as a plush beaver — an artifice that restores two of his three familial relations, revivifies his managerial confidence and accomplishment, and admits an afflatus that he elicits into a bestselling toy. When his depressive symptoms recrudesce, his personality’s new aspect is viciously vitiated, and threatens to fordo its host’s headway. Vice and addiction are etched deeply into Mad Mel’s lineaments; his trials clearly inform the sensitively shaded intensity with which his tormented executive is personated. Foster’s knack for effusion of desperate empathy finds her in good footing among her fellow orbital foils. A subplot whereby Yelchin’s bright and fraudulent misopaterist is commissioned by a cheerleader (Lawrence) to ghostwrite her valedictory renders both as handily as it supplements a running time of 90 minutes, but it’s so cornily, collaterally discrete that its thematic congruity with the primary plot is at best tenuous. As for her previous features, Foster’s solidly workmanlike direction ballasts these and balances an often uneasy mixture of comedy and drama that isn’t helped by Marcelo Zarvos’s twee score. Killen’s delineations of clinical depression and the vice president (Jones) of Gibson’s firm as an adept, unassuming administrator (rather than the overbearing virago who flourishes only in Hollywood’s fiction) are refreshingly honest. Most contemporary American dramas are sunken by melodramatic contrivances that erupt between characters demarcated only by variances of narcissistic inauthenticity, but the sincerity of this screenwriter and directress shines through their mundane missteps.
The Beaver (2011)