Synema Synopsis: The Eager Beaver

The Beaver

by Matt Orlove

Mel fights with just about every beaver he puts his hand into


* * * 1/2

I am very proud of my Jewish heritage, and although I haven’t been a perfect Jew as of late, I may have reached an all time low when I took my parents and my sister to see Mel Gibson in The Beaver.

This is the same Gibson, who my parents kept reminding me, was pulled over in 2006 for speeding, and instead of complying with the officers, went on an all-out anti-Semitic outburst.There was even an eight-page arrest report that wasn’t released because the sheriff’s department deemed its content too “inflammatory” and would incite “Jewish hatred.”

So there I am, sitting in a Chicago AMC movie theatre with my family watching this real-life Borat, in his latest film directed by the ever-great, Jodie Foster. To assuage my Jewish guilt slightly, this movie was actually fresh, heartwarming, and undeniably great, mostly because of Mel Gibson’s pained portrayal of Walter Black.

Walter, the CEO of a toy company on the brink of bankruptcy, has watched depression rot his career and marriage.  His home life isn’t that much better. His youngest son, Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart) can’t sleep; his older son, Porter (Alpha Dog’s Anton Yelchin) hates him so much that he keeps Post-its to help him erase any resemblance to his father; and his wife, Meredith (Foster), is fed up and kicks him out of the house.

Walter’s depression leads him to a hotel where he tries to commit suicide by leaping from a balcony. Instead, he accidentally collapses into bed with a beaver puppet he picked up in a liquor-store dumpster. From this point on, the Beaver never leaves Walter’s hand. That’s what she said. In fact, through an invented Cockney-British accent, the Beaver becomes a portal for Walter to deal with his issues.

The rest of the movie reminded me a lot of Ryan Gosling’s Lars and the Real Girl (Highly recommend).  In that movie, Gosling’s character has mental issues and is in love with a blow up doll.  Everyone in the town pretends the blowup doll is real in order to make him feel like he is normal. Like Lars, Walter’s family, the people he works with, and everyone else he comes in contact with, knowing that he is extremely disturbed, talk to him through the puppet attached to his hand.

Jody Foster loves the beaver

While the movie has its humorous scenes, especially the ménage-a-trois between Gibson, Foster, and the Beaver, I recommend this film because of its serious tone.  When the Beaver speaks through Walter, you have to watch Gibson’s face.  The sadness he prevails is extremely heartbreaking. It’s the hell Walter has made for himself that keeps pulling you in.

If you can put aside the Gibson-hatred, you can actually see the internal struggles Gibson is dealing with in real life, and how it makes his portrayal all the more painfully real. In fact, it may even be his best performance to date, and you shouldn’t miss it.