The Beaver (2011) Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Cherry Jones, Baylen Thomas, Riley Thomas Stewart, Zachary Booth, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeff Corbett, Sam Breslin Wright, Kelly Coffield Park, Michael Rivera, Kris Arnold, Elizabeth Kaledin, Lorna Pruce, Bill Massof, Ernest E. Brown, Michelle E. Mancini, Bill Walters.
Directed by Jodie Foster.
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (Coarse Language)
An alcoholic business executive Walter Black (Gibson) who has become disconnected from his dysfunctional family inexplicably rescues a beaver hand-puppet he finds in a dumpster. After a night of drunken introspection in a hotel room in which his comedic attempts at suicide result merely in him suffering embarrassing injuries he awakens and finds that the puppet has come to life on his hand but only in the sense that part of his psyche is imbuing it with a personality as he performs low-grade ventriloquism with it in a bad cockney accent.
Metaphors here for Mel Gibson’s self-destructive career swan-dive are readily apparent. The beaver hand-puppet in the dumpster can be looked at as his having to reinvent himself as an actor by retrieving a new persona out of the filth of all that is discarded. The relationship with his family can be a metaphor for his disconnection from audiences that have tuned him out.
The humiliation and rudeness we see him endure is evidently intended as some sort of public penance. He is also appearing in a film in which he plays a guy struggling through a hellish journey in a Mexican prison. Does he think that these films will help audiences loathe him less? If he does then he likely wants to have his career thrive as taking such roles would be precisley the only way back for him.
Of course no cutesy metaphor in the world can win him back anything close to the public image and career he once had. Audiences think they have seen his true face and heard his true thoughts. Up to a point they really have and the familiar conception of him as a drunken redneck is something a lot of people will never be able to consider looking past even over the relatively duration of a feature film in which he stars.
By process of elimination we are seeing who will still work with Gibson. Jodie Foster, a personal friend likely took on this project more out of getting the chance to direct a film again. Her primary strength as a director is being able to get herself to star in her own productions.
Also keep in mind that this was shot in Fall 2009, sometime before his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva released recordings of him drunkenly talking crazy and threatening her.
While people on set may have looked past his drunk driving arrests and anti-Semitic outburst in 2006, the allegations that emerged in Spring 2010 would have been more difficult to ignore and may have resulted in the postponement of its release while almost certainly contributing to its failure at the box-office – the one consideration film distributers look at above all others when deciding whether to put a film into wide-distribution.
Unfortunately for Gibson it isn’t the only consideration and The Beaver was released into a sparse 22 theatres making it an abysmal flop of nearly epic proportions given the $21 million (A price tag for which I fail to see commensurate production value) it cost to produce it.
Whatever problems Gibson still has he apparently also has enough cash to be able to float a film. What remains to be seen is who will still work with him and who will distribute whatever films he might make. He might have to do a movie with Lindsay Lohan on Youtube.