A seriously strange dramedy.
The story centers around deep, clinical depression, even touching on suicidal tendencies and self-injury, and how serious depression can erode not only an individual, but also a family. This is really serious stuff... and yet, when a guy is talking through a beaver puppet, one can't help but giggle, even when something really heavy is happening. As a viewer, that's really awkward and uncomfortable. I enjoy dark comedies, but there was something too deranged about this dramedy's comic element; it was often so awkward, that it made me feel totally disconnected from the seriousness of film. The overwhelming and demented humour of Mel Gibson with a cockney beaver hand puppet really does overshadow the dramatic and serious core of the story. This, dear reader, is a big problem, and the biggest reason why I didn't score this film higher than a 6.
The other big reason why it doesn't deserve a higher score is:
There's something overly reminiscent of American Beauty here. Although The Beaver is "different", and quite weird, I can't say it's unique. The side-story of the son and his love interest smells so much like American Beauty, it's even a bit boooo worthy.
There is, however, great acting, from all members of the cast. I may find Gibson distasteful as a person, but he is, as this movie clearly proves, capable of being an excellent actor. His cockney accent, in particular, is fantastic, as is his masterful deadpan. Anton Yelchin (who plays Ensign Chekov in the Star Trek reboot films) is a surprisingly capable young actor. I hope to see more dramatic work from him in the future.
Foster is an exceptional director, and since she rarely comes out of hiding, it's really a shame that Gibson's personal life scandals tanked the promotion and theatrical distribution of this film (it cost 21 million dollars to make, and didn't even earn 1 million at the box office . . . ouch!)
If you like "weird and heavy" stories, and movies about dysfunctional family dynamics, and you have a bizarre and/or unconventional sense of humour, then this movie is for you!
Director: Jodie Foster
Main Cast: Mel Gibon, Anton Yelchin, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Lawrence, Riley Thomas Stewart