The Beaver (2011)
He's here to save Walter's life.
I'm drawn to movies with strange premises. If you've been around and seen the selection of my other opinion pieces, you've probably already come to this conclusion. It's to my credit that most of these movie are at-a-glance drawings either by word-of-mouth or a simple picture, maybe even a trailer. I normally don't know much about a movie, for better or worse, until after I get around to seeing it. Mel Gibson talking to himself and others through a beaver puppet is one such premise, and the answer to better or worse awaits being logged.
Dramas are a type of movie that, although quite potent in most cases, aren't always the breed of flick I gravitate to. You see, a good deal of the better dramas out there are more thoughtful, provocative things that go straight after your heart or your mind - and when it comes to entertainment purposes, I'm usually the brain-dead Starship Troopers kind of guy. That being said, it's far easier to tell if a drama was well and effective, because if you've felt anything at all you know it did it's job - heck, you might have even learned something about yourself or others.
Our plot point here is that this man is a snapshot of a man, plagued by depression. At one time, he was successful and had a great family, but after therapies and drugs and the gradual wear he's been worn into an entity that barely does anything but sleep. After all that time, it's starting to wear on his family as well - his one kid has become solitary, his oldest hating everything about him to the point of being obsessive over it, and his wife hides away behind her own work. When it finally comes to a head, the man finds himself banished from his own home and family for the "greater good," sent with some belongings to a hotel. On the way, after stopping at a liquor store and trying to make room in his trunk for his haul, the man finds a beaver puppet in a dumpster. For some strange reason, he can't seem to leave it there and throws it in the trunk with his booze.
That night, the man tries to kill himself. After his initial failed attempt, he escalates to the balcony only to be shocked moments later when the beaver puppet on his hand speaks to him. Confused by what has occurred, he stumbles backwards and knocks the television set over onto himself and knocks himself out. When he awakes the next day, he finds the beaver is quite talkative to him, and has a plan of getting him back on track with his life. Of other import, his eldest son has a working-romance type subplot with one of his schoolmates. Can the beaver keep things going smoothly, and can the man go back to what he used to be?
First off: the main monster in this movie is depression. I walked into this thing expecting something far more whimsical than what I got, but right out the gate it's rather serious stuff. I'm sure someone whose suffered (or is suffering) from depression will know exactly what this movie tries to get across in that regard, and some of the points it really hammers home in the conclusion could be rather handy for anyone who knows someone that suffers it. Beyond that, it's a pretty heartfelt message in there and despite the premise of a man talking through a beaver it manages to stay pretty serious throughout. Sure, the beaver does make things a bit lighthearted in some regards - maybe it cracks a joke here or there, but even then at times you really have to wonder if you should get a laugh out of anything it says.
The actors do a splendid job here, and it really helps sell the movie. One would really expect that the main driving force would be Gibson - and by all means he does a man with issues remarkably well, to the point him being uncomfortable in some scenes makes you start feeling a bit uncomfortable - but the rest of the cast doesn't want to be left too far behind either. I should clarify, the main cast - sure, the side characters aren't that terrible and it all comes off well, but the main shine comes from the primary bulbs so to speak. The son and his female cohort start off feeling like it's just going to be a way to pad out run time, but as it develops it grows some in depth, to the point where by the end it eloquently rams it's message straight into your face.
There isn't much in the lines of costumes here - modern setting and modern wear, outside the beaver puppet. There also really isn't a whole lot of effects work for the most part either, the puppet is just a puppet after all. Some of the scenes involving the puppet help liven things up a little across the movie - such as showers with the puppet - and it really does feel like there's at least some character development as it goes on. To what extent will sort of differ depending on which characters, but it is at least there. Sound balance is pretty well also, which is good for hearing those line deliveries.
I gotta say, this movie delivered a lot more than I had anticipated. People who don't like sad or depressing movies might not enjoy this one that much - but at the same time, I feel like that is at least part of the point. Having a movie that dabbles on the topic of depression and having it be all zany colors and happy jives would feel as though it's treating it like a joke. The acting is all mostly done great, the thought and feelings are there for the people who want (or don't want) them, and it's not at all too long in delivering it's content. I'd wager it's at least a rent for the crowd who loves the genre of drama, maybe even for the average movie goer as well.