"The Beaver" is a strange, uneven film about a severely depressed middle aged man played by Mel Gibson. The title refers to a hand puppet that his character uses to communicate with everyone around him.
Gibson's emotional performance is the main reason to see the movie, because, unfortunately, much of the overloaded script just isn't realistic.
As an unseen narrator explains, "This is the story of Walter Black, a hopelessly depressed individual. The successful and loving family man he used to be has gone missing."
But Walter finds a new voice for himself in a beaver hand puppet he plucks out of a dumpster.
Puppet: Look at you.
Walter: I'm sick.
Puppet: do you wanna get better?
Walter: Who are you?
Puppet: I'm the beaver, Walter. and I'm here to save your damn life.
It's a risky concept to hang a movie on and a bold move on the part of director Jodie Foster to cast the publicly scorned alcoholic Mel Gibson in the lead role.
Foster herself plays his wife.
Wife (reading a card): "The person who handed you this card is under the care of a prescription puppet, designed to create a psychological distance between himself and the negative aspects of his personality. Please treat him as you normally would, but address yourself to the puppet. Thank you."
Is this some kind of a joke?
Walter (speaking through the puppet): No hardly, love. Nothing funny about it.
Wife: Stop it with the puppet!
But Walter doesn't stop using the puppet, straining the patience of everyone in his family except his youngest son.
His oldest son, a high school senior, tries to eliminate, in himself, all traces of his dad's personality. But the son's parallel story doesn't connect as well as it should to Walter's plight.
(The screenplay has the boy falling for a graffiti artist played by Jennifer Lawrence, the young actress who starred in last year's "Winter's Bone.")
"The Beaver" is a well intentioned attempt to explore the all too common condition of serious `depression, but its good ideas just haven't been turned into a solid dramatic story.