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Valerie Z. Written by Valerie Z.
May. 9, 2011 | 11:11 PM

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Yes, I’m a Jew and I still attended the free screening of “The Beaver” which I found to be a very effective film.  It is directed by one of its stars, Jodie Foster.  Oh yes, and it stars Mel Gibson.  First, this is NOT a comedy despite any advertising that may suggest that it is.  Also, the film is being released at a time of the year when dramas, especially a drama about depression, are not popular movie-going fare.  For these two reasons, the film may get overlooked, but shouldn’t.  This film could really open up a dialog about depression and mental illness.

Gibson plays a man named Walter Black and Foster plays his wife.  Walter has been suffering from a deep depression for the past two years when his wife asks him to move out.  After purchasing a large quantity of alcohol, Walter doesn’t have enough room for all of the bottles in his car.  While throwing out many of his personal possessions, he spots a puppet of a Beaver in the trash bin, which he takes home. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, he uses the puppet as a way of re-connecting with his employees and his family by speaking through the Beaver while wearing it on his hand at all times.  His young son is accepting of his Beaver puppet and they re-build their relationship.  His wife is reluctant in the beginning but slowly they begin to rekindle their broken relationship.  His teenaged son (Anton Yelchin) avoids his father at all costs and is the key to looking at how depression runs in families. Unfortunately, his wife wants him to dump the Beaver and be “himself” again but he just can’t function without it, resulting in tragic consequences.

The subplot involving the teenage son, Porter, who writes and sells school papers to other students is interesting as he develops a relationship with a school mate (Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone), who has a brother who died of an overdose. 

The acting is first rate by all but you get the feeling that Gibson is especially connected to this character.  You almost get a sense of what the actor must be going through in his personnel life.  He even speaks with his native accent and not the American one that we are so used to hearing.  Also, there is a cameo by Jon Stewart, who is an outspoken Jew in real-life as he often makes light of this fact on The Daily Show.  It made me wonder what the conversation was like between takes.

Many in my audience gasped and shouted, “he’s crazy!” at the screen.  If you don’t understand mental illness and the process of therapy, this film will open your eyes.

The film is rated PG-13 with a running time of 1 hour 31 minutes.


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