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A good movie

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 10 March 2014 09:34

Oh dear… Both Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson took a huge gamble with this project and, eventually, this gamble didn’t pay off, I’m afraid. I mean, I did like this flick but I think I’m in the minority and, on top of that, I have to admit it, the whole thing was hugely flawed. Still, I gave it some few extra points because it tackles depression, a subject you barely seen in the movies and there was some good stuff. Eventually, I think there were at least 3 major elements which bothered me. First of all, they never managed to focus on a specific tone. I mean, for a good while, it was a very black satirical comedy which was the best choice but then, they would switch to some middle-of-the-road family drama and this lack of consistency was rather disappointing. Then, it was rather ludicrous to make us believe that the beaver would be able to run a company and, even worse, to make a tremendous success. Finally, there was this major parallel plot involving Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence and while this story was not bad, it was hardly developped enough and with a running time of just 90 minutes, there was no room for two storie like this. After this, I wonder how Jodie Foster’s directing career will further go. I mean, after ‘Little Man Tate’, many including myself thought it would be the start of an interesting new career, 4 years later she made ‘Home for the Holidays’ which was barely seen but it was not bad, and now, at last after 16 years, she finally comes up with something new but when you see the end-result, you might wonder if she will ever bother again sitting in the directing chair. To conclude, my rating might be a little too generous but I liked how daring the whole thing was and I think it is worth a look.

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The Beaver review

Posted : 7 years, 3 months ago on 13 March 2012 07:09

The Beaver is a very, very bizarre film. Even the plot seems strange. When I first heard it, I thought it was ludicrous. But I have known that ludicrous plots have been made into great films, and I will say that while not fantastic, it's pretty well done. The acting is pretty subpar and Mel Gibson's character is a nice enough guy that you want to root for him at the end. I also found the film a fascinating look into a depressed man's psyche. The beaver could represent an alter ego of the Mel Gibson character, or an alternate personality, which raises some very interesting questions about what brough him to that point. Also, I love the relationships everybody has. It feels realistic and doesn't feel like Hollywood cliche relationships. The plot is too silly to take seriously at times, and every once in a while, I found myself tilting my head and thinking to myself, "This is kinda silly." But if you think you may be willing to overlook the silliness of the plot, I think there's a lot of stuff in here worth liking. If you don't think you'll able to overlook it, then don't even bother watching it, because chances are you probably won't like it.

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Wonderful indie drama

Posted : 7 years, 5 months ago on 18 January 2012 07:43

"Crazy is being miserable and walking around half asleep, numb, day after day after day. Crazy is pretending to be happy. Pretending that the way things are is the way they have to be for the rest of your bleeding life. All the potential, hope, all that joy, feeling, all that passion that life has sucked out of you. Reach out, grab a hold of it and snatch it back from that bloodsucking rabble."

Contrary to most, this reviewer is an enormous Mel Gibson apologist, and it's tragic that every nuance of his private life has been broadcast to the oversensitive public who subsequently judge the man on isolated incidents without knowing the proper context. With his personal demons under the scrutiny of the public eye, the star is now shunned by an industry who once adored him. It's somewhat appropriate, then, that Gibson's first movie since the infamous leaked recordings is 2011's The Beaver, which has Gibson playing someone who loses it all and sets out to rediscover the man he used to be. In spite of its lukewarm critical reception, this is a wonderful indie drama which touches upon serious issues with sensitivity and maturity. Jodie Foster's direction evinces genuine care and passion, and Gibson's performance at the centre of the story is absolutely magnificent.

An aging husband and father, Walter Black (Gibson) has hit rock bottom. He's running his late father's toy company into the ground, his marriage is crumbling, and he's severely depressed. His long-suffering wife Meredith (Foster) can no longer live with her empty shell of a husband, and asks Walter to leave. While wallowing in drunken despair and contemplating suicide, Walter finds himself communicating with his alter ego - a beaver puppet on his hand that he salvaged from a dumpster - who promises to save Walter's pathetic life. Soon, Walter immerses himself into his alter ego, communicating with those around him solely via the beaver puppet. As the forthright, confident Beaver, Walter saves his toy company from collapse and begins to repair his family life. However, use of the puppet soon begins to take its toll on Walter's fragile sanity.

Initially, it seems as if the puppet is the key to Walter's salvation. As The Beaver, Walter is more dynamic, more lively, and more capable at handling life's challenges. But Walter grows progressively weaker as The Beaver grows stronger, and when Meredith forces her husband to be himself, he returns to his shaky, empty mental state. Not everyone will be willing to go along with the puppet device, but it worked flawlessly for this reviewer. There's one particular scene in which Walter (as The Beaver) offers metaphysical insight into the human condition on The Today Show that's both shrewd and moving. Some moments throughout the film admittedly feel a bit too on-the-nose and scripted (a graduation speech is a key offender), not to mention corny ("We're talking about a miracle!"), but the picture has more hits than misses.

For a good 45 minutes after Walter adopts the puppet, The Beaver is generally rather flippant - Walter reintegrates himself into his family unit wonderfully (though his eldest son resents the concept), and Walter reinvigorates his business in a heart-warming fashion. It's enjoyable to watch Walter interact strictly through his puppet avatar, and several moments of comedy flow from this. But while it has its light moments, The Beaver is not a comedy, as the film is more concerned with depicting depression in a realistic fashion. The film explores the repercussions on relationships and families when severe depression envelops someone who consequently loses all hope. Depression can reverberate throughout others, bringing a depressed person's loved ones down as well. Foster is a relatively inexperienced director, but the tonal changes are surprisingly assured; she has managed to generate a delicate balancing act between dark comedy and powerful drama. Foster is also aided by Marcelo Zarvos' often engaging, offbeat score, though a few sound-bites fail to sit right (intense action movie-esque music during the emotional scene in which Walter struggles to overcome the Beaver's grasp?).

Mel Gibson's presence may turn some people off the film, but all of his baggage actually makes it easier for us to identify with his character's spiritual woes. Gibson's essaying of Walter is stunning, as his face is etched with palpable pain and sadness. He really threw himself into this part, and he's fantastic as both the depressed Walter and the brash Beaver (whose cockney accent is a mix of Ray Winstone and Michael Caine). Creating two disparate personalities would be a difficult undertaking for any performer, but Gibson confidently pulled it off with nuance and charm to spare. In The Beaver's introductory scene, Walter is essentially talking with himself, but Gibson handled the dialogue exchanges marvellously; his face constantly switches between the despondent Walter and the vibrant Beaver to immaculate effect. Say whatever you wish about Gibson's controversial personal life, but you cannot deny that he's a magnificent actor. Jodie Foster is not quite as good in the role of Walter's wife, but both Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence are spot-on as Porter and Norah (respectively). What's most commendable about Yelchin and Lawrence is that they never seem sappy during emotional moments.

Admittedly, The Beaver is not quite as developed as it should have been, most notably in its moral lessons than could have been fleshed out more. Nevertheless, this reviewer immensely enjoyed The Beaver; it's touching, it has a handful of great scenes, and boasts some wonderful acting. It packs a huge emotional punch at the end as well, and refuses to end on an entirely clichéd note (not everything is neatly resolved). This is not a perfect film, but it is challenging and original.


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The Beaver review

Posted : 7 years, 9 months ago on 11 September 2011 11:24

A very good movie but I didn't like the ending...Great cast. Gibsom with outstanding preformence!

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The Beaver review

Posted : 7 years, 9 months ago on 7 September 2011 10:55

The Beaver is a great and obvious metaphor that unfortunately it sustains even when its argument proves untenable, especially in its 1st act. The narrative begins with the routine of the central character in tatters in an irreversible situation, but behold the beaver's figure is eventually likely to be accepted. The conflicts that would be natural are temporarily ignored and become valid from the middle, resulting in greater or lesser extent in other family members. Still here the director Jodie Foster, manages to extract sensitivity in sentimentality without falling completely, although the dramatic trajectory of the character is more than predictable but Mel Gibson commands it fairly good, even when the script doesn’t do to deserve such an effort. A drama that tries to establish a series of conflicts from an unusual premise, but the end results ending up worthy.

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The Beaver

Posted : 8 years ago on 9 June 2011 02:39

If you've seen the searingly dark and magnificent HARD CANDY, you may remember that there's a moment at which its protagonist, Hayley (a teenage girl who is about to carry out an atrociously savage act), wonders what would happen if she were caught by the authorities. She jokes that they wouldn't do much to her other than have her do some hours of community service, and she wryly comments that "Jodie Foster would direct the movie version of it." Since I hadn't seen a film directed by Jodie Foster prior to watching the mediocre excuse for a drama that is THE BEAVER, I had no idea what Hayley was talking about, but I do now. The trailers tell you that the film is about a character played by Mel Gibson who is having family issues, and therefore, decides to start communicating through a stuffed animal, rather than speaking for himself. What the trailers don't tell you is that if it weren't for that somewhat unorthodox aspect of the plot, this would be straight-up soap opera material.

When the film begins, Walter (Mel Gibson) has already been kicked out of his house by his wife Meredith (Jodie Foster, doing double duty here as star and director), which means that we're not even aware of the reason why he was kicked out (and I wonder how many people will realize that that information is never given to us during the film). The couple has two kids: high schooler Porter (Anton Yelchin), who is fully supportive of his mother and is completely thrilled that she "finally" decided to kick his dad out, and the much younger Henry (Riley Thomas Stewart), who is much too innocent to understand what is going on. After a few failed (and admittedly funny) suicide attempts in his hotel room, Walter seems to come up with a better idea. He finds a beaver stuffed animal in the garbage. The next day he goes right back home, affects an Australian accent, and starts pretending as though the beaver is speaking for him. He hands Meredith a card that says that this is a psychological mechanism that he is using to deal with his depression. Meredith, of course, wants to save her family, so she decides to play along. Porter is predictably outraged, while the blissfully ignorant little Henry starts having tons of fun talking to the beaver, as though it were a new toy in the house.

There's potentially a good independent drama to be made out of THE BEAVER's premise, but the version that has recently reached theaters certainly isn't it. What sucks is that Gibson's role is total "awards bait" and should've easily garnered him some recognition, but I don't think that's possible, considering that parts of the film feel more appropriate for daytime programming than for the film screen. When Meredith gets angry at Walter at one point and decides to leave the house, and she says "I'm taking the kids and everything we can carry!" I wanted to throw rotten fruits at the screen, and then ask "Why wasn't this sent directly to the Lifetime movie network?"

If it weren't for the offbeat plot line involving the titular stuffed animal, this would be nothing but a vapid family dysfunction drama. What I object to severely is how obvious it is that the beaver is used not so much for purposes of plot development as it is to ensure that such vapidness isn't so obvious to the viewer. And that wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't for the fact that, during its final act, the film uses the stuffed animal for even more manipulative purposes. You see, we get the obligatory scene in which Walter has to "face the beaver" and things even get violent. That's fine. What's NOT fine is the decision by the filmmakers to include suspenseful music here. It's off-putting and distracts from the emotional turmoil that the protagonist is supposed to be experiencing. Even worse, it's further evidence that the film isn't really interested in the depth of the psychological issues it's presenting as it is in offering cheap, transitory satisfaction to an audience who it clearly views as unintelligent and undemanding. Adding suspenseful music during this pivotal and emotionally climactic moment is like adding a laugh track during a funny moment in an episode of The Sopranos: sure, there may be humor involved in that particular moment, but you have to consider the CONTEXT of the story you're presenting - some things just aren't appropriate, and shouldn't be done just for the sake of milking your material in the cheapest way possible.

There's a subplot in THE BEAVER that could've been the movie's saving grace but ends up being every bit as much of a flop as the rest of the film. At his high school, Porter secretly makes money writing papers for his classmates. One day, he is approached by Norah (Jennifer Lawrence), the class valedictorian. Turns out that, despite how smart she is, she can't come up with what to say for her graduation speech, and wants Porter to write it for her. So, he starts getting to know her and, of course, romantic sparks start flying. So far, so good. But the culmination of this plot line (at the graduation ceremony) is executed so poorly and senselessly that it reeks of "Okay, let's just resolve this issue of the movie and move on.". It's not only one of those predictable moments in which someone makes the "sudden" decision to speak from the heart (cringe), but it's also the fact that what is ultimately said feels wholly unrealistic and scripted. Not even someone like the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence can save something as poorly executed as this.

If that were all, I wouldn't be so harsh on the film, but the biggest problem here is that we have one of those denouements in which there's a montage that is meant to suggest to us that all the problems have somehow magically gone away. I don't believe that ALL genres of film need to adhere to realism, but when you're talking about a serious drama about family conflicts, the least that a movie can do is be relatable and present an outcome that appears to at least be congruent with the emotional issues that were presented. Anyone who has had marriage problems and watches THE BEAVER will likely think "Oh, that's nice. I wish my problems could be solved that easily, too." It's offensive. To make matters worse, the final voiceover is a ludicrous attempt at tying together something that never truly meshed in the first place.

Mel Gibson does what he can, but like I said, the film doesn't offer him room to give the Oscar-caliber performance he should've been able to give here. As for Jodie Foster, I'm terribly sorry to say this, especially because I've already been critical enough of the film she directed, but it's been a while since I've seen an Academy Award winner give such a shrill and forced performance. I lost count of the number of times in which she went over the top in this film. Despite his youth, Anton Yelchin has done way better work elsewhere (see CHARLIE BARTLETT, FIERCE PEOPLE and ALPHA DOG). And there's the inevitably upsetting fact that THE BEAVER chooses to go for the cliche of the rebellious older son and the complacently ignorant younger son. Where's the sense of creativity?

Family dysfunction dramas have figured very frequently in the realm of indie films over the last few years. THE BEAVER is decidedly one of the failures of the lot. Again, it's the type of film that should've been sent straight over to the Lifetime Movie Network, were it not perhaps for the fact that it has two extremely famous actors on its list of credits. I do think Foster has given terrific performances in the past, and perhaps it's for that reason that it pains me to say this more than it would for a director whose face I don't recognize, but the film epitomizes mediocrity. The good thing I'll take away from it, though, is that next time I watch HARD CANDY, I'll actually be in on Hayley's joke, and there's no doubt I'll laugh knowingly.

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