For those of you who have been living for the last few years in a cave sans wireless, The Beaver is Gibson's return to the big screen … as a depressed man who finds his redemption in the inside of a beaver puppet. Not like that. He just sticks it on his left hand and lets it do the talking for a bit. Oh, and it talks like Michael Caine. No one explains this.
I had not seen The Beaver in the cinema, influenced mostly by reviews that ran to the same effect as this one, and foolishly decided to watch the "making of" feature before the film itself. Foolishly because Foster's eloquent and incisive narrative was brilliantly evocative and prepared me for a masterpiece – or, at the very least, something arresting and profound.
The Beaver is, alas, none of the above. It's not terrible, but it's by no means remarkable. For a story about mental illness overcome by use of a fictive character embodied in a confrontational and often abusive toy rodent, it's surprisingly mundane. Gibson gives a fine performance as Walter-cum-Cockney-Beaver, but it's as if his co-stars, like their characters, aren't sure how to react to him sticking his arm up a furry puppet. This should yield performances of intense realism, but in fact results in a kind of anodyne glaze.
Moreover, those characters are mere stereotypes. For all that the son's romance with the school's valedictorian is dressed up to be a meeting of two infinitely complicated souls, really it's just the tale of the beauty and the geek. This should have been a good film – I wanted it to be – but it just isn't.
EXTRAS ★★ Apart from the aforementioned making-of feature, there's a director's commentary, an interview with Gibson (insightful but guarded), as well two deleted scenes that probably wouldn't have added anything to the final feature but certainly were nothing more peculiar and unremarkable as what went into it.