ASPECT RATIO: 2.40:1
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
SUBTITLES: English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
SPECIAL FEATURES: Two deleted scenes, The Making of The Beaver featurette “Everything is Going to be O.K.”
AUDIO COMMENTARY: With director Jodie Foster
A depressed CEO (Mel Gibson) finds the only way to communicate with others is through the use of a beaver puppet, much to the dismay of his wife (Jodie Foster) and oldest son (Anton Yelchin).
Director: Jodie Foster
Screenplay: Kyle Killen
Here is a novel idea: I am going to review The Beaver without factoring in Mel Gibson’s personal troubles. If you want to tell if your critic is a hypocritical douchebag, note how they approach this film. They will preface their opinion of the film with their opinion of Gibson, as if one should affect the other.
The fact is, some folks have a problem with Gibson, and they are entitled to that. These same folks, however, always give a free pass to people like Alec Baldwin (who psychologically abused his children) or Michael Jackson (who also abused children, verdict or no). Those folks weren’t even alcohol abusers like Gibson. I cannot justify Gibson’s actions, but I won’t let my personal prejudices cloud my assessment of his work.
With that out of the way, I can tell you that Gibson gives an extraordinary performance in an original, brutally honest, and incredible film. Jodie Foster masterfully directs an intelligent script that perfectly balances the realities of depression with humor and honesty. I did not expect to like the film as much as I did; comedies about depression and mental illness either go too dark or neatly tie things up without being “real” enough.
I was expecting to see the usual drawn-out, overacted monologue that you normally see in family dramas. You know the type I mean: the scene were someone says something incredibly profound that changes everything, the type of scene that gets featured in the trailer and people want to throw Oscars at. Thankfully, Foster never allows The Beaver to stoop to such unrealistic depths. The characters and their interaction all feel real.
Even when Gibson is at his most absurd, going on television and speaking through the beaver puppet, it never descends to self-parody. The fact that the film remains emotionally accessible to the viewer is a credit to both Foster and Gibson, who should work together more often. Anton Yelchin delivers a layered, endearing performance as Gibson’s son, proving that he is one of the better young actors in Hollywood today. Jennifer Lawrence has a strong supporting role as a classmate of Yelchin who has personal issues of her own.
Nicely shot and well-acted, The Beaver is a pleasant surprise that wins you over with every succeeding scene. Rather than tug at your heartstrings, it pulls back the curtains on mental illness and proves that a lost family can, in fact, find its way back to happiness.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is first-rate, providing an incredibly sharp picture throughout. Foster shoots a lot of close-ups, so we see every little detail in the actor’s faces. Mel Gibson’s weathered face perfectly expresses the sadness of his character, and you’ll come to appreciate his understated approach to his performance, at least when he doesn’t speak through the beaver. The audio is DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, and voices are strong through the center channels, providing a nice balance with the quirky polka-style music of the soundtrack.
The key special feature here is Jodie Foster’s audio commentary, which is very interesting to listen to. I find Foster to be a great actress and a talented director, so hearing her insight into film making is a treat. She doesn’t feel the need to say something all of the time, and when she does, it is well-thought out and proves how well she understands the medium.
A “Making Of” documentary provides some nice behind-the-scenes shots, including interviews with Gibson and the cast. Two deleted scenes (with optional commentary) round out the extras.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR NETFLIX IT?
OVERALL GRADE: A-
The Beaver should have been a critical and box-office hit. Jodie Foster has created a fascinating look at a family in turmoil, and how they struggle to stay together. A nice touch of humor keeps the subject matter from becoming too dark. Bolstered by the best performance of Mel Gibson’s career, The Beaver finds an odd but earnest way to celebrate the human spirit. I give it an enthusiastic “buy” recommendation.
The Beaver is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Summit Entertainment.
Click here to order The Beaver on Blu-ray from Amazon!