The Beaver is a bit of an odd film to talk about. At its heart it is a twisted tale of a man and his depression-fueled psychosis taking over his life. The story is powerful and well told, but because it stars Mel Gibson the film had a certain level of stigma attached. Released at the centre of another stormy controversy following his continuing erratic behavior, The Beaver did not perform well at the box office. Now that it as arrived on Blu-ray, does The Beaver deserve a second chance? Read on to find out.
The story in The Beaver revolves around Walter Black (Gibson), who is in a state of crippling depression. Even though Walter has a successful business and a loving family, he could not stave off the bleakness of his depression, eventually slipping away from family and business. Hitting rock bottom, Walter decides he needs to pack up and leave his family behind. Having also lost her faith in Walter, his wife Merideth (Jodie Foster) does not try to stop him, watchin him leave. Walter proceeds to throw out the few possessions he took with him, and spots a beaver puppet in the trash. Out of lonely curiosity he takes the puppet and proceeds to get drunk in a hotel room.
Feeling that he has nothing left to live for, Walter tries to commit suicide, but right at the final moment the beaver puppet seemingly speaks to him. Walter aborts his suicide and accidentally knocks himself out. After he waking hours later, Walter is astonished to find the beaver puppet can now speak. But the beaver is really Walter!
What follows is a twisted and often uncomfortable tale as Walter/the Beaver re-integrates with his family and business life.
Directed by Jodie Foster, The Beaver is a powerful story that falls shy of true greatness partly because the film tries to accomplish too much within its narrative. Not only do we see the Walter/the Beaver internal struggle, the film also delves into far too many side stories mostly revolving around Porter’s neurosis about his father, a paper writing business he runs at school and his relationship with classmate Norah (Jennifer Lawrence).
A good story on its own, the tale in The Beaver is made particularly compelling because of the strong performances by the entire cast. Mel Gibson gives a standout performance that strikes a tad close to home at times with his psychotic episodes and rants echoing his real life persona a little eerily. Regardless he is brilliant in this film and the range of emotion he displays in his internal and external conflicts shows us what he can do as an actor. The rest of the cast are naturally overshadowed by the central Walter/the Beaver character but no less impressive. In particular Jodie Foster gives a great performance as a woman trying to hold her family together while struggling to accept her husbands illness and odd behavior.
The Beaver is a fascinating film that warrants a viewing or two, particularly for the standout performances and nuanced look at the impact of depression on a family. The emergence of Walter/the Beaver as a coping mechanism and the pain generated by this strange solution is truly engaging to watch. It is actually a shame (in more ways then one) that Mel Gibson’s own erratic behavior will cause people to overlook this film. I understand that some will not be able to look past their feelings regarding Gibson and give the movie a chance, but if you can The Beaver is well worth watching.
Presented in 1080p on Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC codec and a 2.40:1aspect ratio The Beaver is a solid but not quite perfect video transfer. Focusing on characters with almost no special effects The Beaver is all about close shots where lighting and textures matter, and thankfully by and large they are represented quite well. Textures are sharp with Walter’s weathered appearance and the Beaver’s fur coat contrasting well on screen. Black levels are generally good with some muddiness apparent at times. Colors are well balanced and there is a nice film grain look to the image that suits the narrative. It is a solid transfer that doesn’t do anything wrong, but also does not pop out of the screen in any way that makes you stand up and notice.
Featuring a subdued DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack The Beaver delivers a pleasant audio experience. Movies that are dialogue heavy like this one can be greatly compromised by a sloppy soundtrack, thankfully this one is handled quite well. The centre channel is used extensively and to great effect as dialogue is always clear and identifiable. In particular conversations between Walter and his Beaver persona come across in a clear and powerful way. Rear speakers are constantly in use with background noise and focused dialogue, but are subtly used as is the subwoofer due to the nature of the film. Overall the music, dialogue, and limited effects are handled very well, there is nothing that will blow you away, but this is not the type of movie that has or needs a sweeping soundtrack.
The Beaver is a fairly simple movie in its presentation so it is no surprise that there are not a huge amount of supplements. What is here is not terribly exciting, but it is nice to see a few additional looks at the film and process.
- Audio Commentary: Director/Actor Jodie Foster discusses all manner of topics during the commentary ranging from sets and music to themes and casting. There are moments that are genuinely interesting, but those are few and far between in this fairly bland commentary track.
- Deleted Scenes (1080p, 4:52): Role Play and Puppet Pull deleted scenes can be watched with optional commentary. Not terribly compelling scenes and understandable why they were cut.
- Everything is Going to Be OK (1080p, 12:06): A ‘making of’ featurette that lands just shy of being pure marketing material. Featuring interviews with cast and crew the video looks at the filming process and the underlying themes of the The Beaver.
The Final Word
The Beaver tells a compelling, if slightly flawed, tale that is enhanced by solid performances and a quality Blu-ray presentation. Some may be put off by the real life persona of its star but the movie itself is a dark and quirky tale that is well told and worth experiencing.