"A Family in Crisis"
What You Need To Know:
THE BEAVER is a powerful, unique and sometimes unsettling but ultimately redemptive, positive, pro-family drama. Gibson rises to the occasion, and Jodie Foster is brilliant as the wife who tries to stand by her husband no matter what. Some viewers may find the movie too weird, however. THE BEAVER also has a disturbing suicide scene, some foul language and some slightly explicit intimate moments between the husband and wife that warrant extreme caution. Even so, THE BEAVER ultimately presents a touching, potent portrayal of personal and family healing, forgiveness and reconciliation.
(BB, C, Ro, H, LL, V, SS, N, AA, MM) Strong mixed moral worldview with some redemptive elements of forgiveness, reconciliation and unflinching love in a dark yet ultimately uplifting drama about a family man suffering a severe depression, mixed with Romantic elements involving an understandably angry but disrespectful and rebellious teenage son and some very light humanist references to psychological methods of healing, but (SPOILER) a happy ending results when the protagonist gets rid of the thing that eventually becomes the villain in the story; 17 obscenities (including one “f” word) and three or four strong profanities; some upsetting but light violence includes attempted suicide, man falls, TV falls onto drunken man, father and teenage son get into a shoving match where the father shoves the son against a brick wall, son is shown secretly banging his head against his bedroom wall in at least two scenes, which obviously hurts his own head but also knocks a growing hole in the wall, and implied mutilation off screen accompanied by a scream; slightly explicit but not extremely graphic sexual moments include married couple are shown having sexual relations in bed and implied in shower after starting to reconcile; upper male nudity and implied female nudity; casual alcohol drinking between wife and husband at anniversary dinner, and husband gets drunk alone after getting kicked out of home and forced to stay in a motel; no smoking or drugs; lying, dysfunctional family situations when father has severe case of depression and starts using a hand puppet as a second personality to better cope with life but the puppet personality begins to take over father’s psyche, teenage son makes a list of ways in which he is afraid of being like his father, teenage rebellion and disrespect, teenager sells essays to other students, and graffiti vandalism, but (SPOILER ALERT) things are put right in the end and a real healing process begins as the movie ends.
THE BEAVER is a powerful, unique and at times unsettling but ultimately redemptive, positive drama showing the devastating effects depression can have on even the best of people. Starring Mel Gibson as a severely depressed and possibly schizophrenic man who’s losing grip of his family and career through his refusal to get help for his affliction, the movie has a mixed moral worldview with some strong pro-family themes offset by harrowing moments of self-destruction and strong arguments between a father and his understandably angry, but disrespectful, teenage son.
Walter Black (Gibson) is a well-to-do family man who inherited a toy company from his father but feels unsuited to the task of running the business. As his depression mounts, he sleeps constantly at home, drawing resentment from his teenage son Porter (played by Anton Yelchin) and concern from his wife Meredith (played by Jodie Foster, who also directs the movie). When she can finally take no more, Meredith forces Walter out of the house.
One night while dumping junk in a dumpster, Walter sees an old beaver hand puppet and puts it on his hand. When he tries to commit suicide at his motel, Walter starts talking to himself through the puppet, in a Cockney accent no less. The beaver stops Walter from committing suicide, and the next morning the puppet begins helping Walter stop sleeping and take on a more positive spirit.
Revived in his emotions and drive by using the puppet, which becomes like a second personality, Walter tries to reconcile with his family and colleagues at work. He gives everyone a card telling them to talk to the beaver instead of him. The card also says that his psychiatrist has ordered the hand puppet as part of Walter’s treatment.
Using the puppet, Walter regains regain his wife and younger son’s love and trust as well as that of his employees. He rejuvenates his family’s company and even conceives of a beaver-related woodworking toy that becomes an instant, enormous sales sensation.
However, Walter cannot live without the beaver. This drives his wife Meredith and his son Porter away again. Consequently, Walter sinks back into depression. This forces the puppet, which now has become more like a demonic second personality, to berate Walter for not believing that his wife and son are the bad guys, and he’s better off without them. A battle between Walter and the Beaver ensues. The question becomes, Who will survive?
THE BEAVER is a moving, ultimately redemptive movie about depression and what it can do to one’s family and one’s career. Although Mel Gibson is the protagonist, in many ways, the mother becomes the movie’s heroic figure, as she tries to cope with her husband’s strange behavior and reunite the family. This portrayal of unflinching love by Jodie Foster as a wife and mother is one of the strongest, most positive depictions of marriage offered by Hollywood in many years. It serves as a most admirable example of the wedding vows of “in sickness and in health” that one can imagine. (SPOILER ALERT) Ultimately, the movie ends on a positive note of personal and family healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. This doesn’t come without a cost, however.
Also, the teenage son Porter does have a very negative relationship with his father, but it’s born out of frustration from Walter’s refusal to really get help for years prior to the movie’s incidents. Porter in fact has some serious character flaws himself, taking large amounts of money from his classmates to write their papers under false pretenses and misguidedly trying to help a new girlfriend deal with her emotions about her own brother’s death by drug overdose. Eventually (SPOILER), he gets her into trouble by association.
As mentioned above, everything is resolved positively yet realistically, and the actors – especially Gibson – rise to the occasion of first-time screenwriter Kyle Killen’s highly innovative and moving script. It’s also refreshing to see Foster show a radiant, positive feminine persona as a devoted wife and mother after years of action movies, and even more refreshing to see Hollywood portray family and forgiveness in a positive dramatic light that ultimately becomes uplifting. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution, however, for a disturbing suicide scene, some foul language and some slightly explicit intimate moments involving the movie’s married couple. THE BEAVER is not for children.