F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 23, 2012)

23 11 2012

It really is a shame that Mel Gibson had to go off the deep end right before the release of “The Beaver.”  The movie is a deeply powerful examination of family and interpersonal dynamics in the wake of an increasingly isolating digital world.  However, if you’ve watched E! any time over the last few years, you’ve no doubt become aware that Gibson isn’t exactly in his right mind all the time.  Thus, they were successfully able to sell Jodie Foster’s excellent film to the public as “that crazy Mel Gibson movie where he talks with a beaver puppet” as if it were autobiographical.

“The Beaver” isn’t the story of Mel Gibson; it’s the story of all of us who ever disappear into our screens at the expense of human connection.  For that reason, it’s my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  It cracked my top 10 last year, and the more I think on the film, the more pleased I am that I went out on a limb for it.  I think in a few years, when all the tabloids quit running their sensational stories on Gibson, there will be a massive critical reevaluation of “The Beaver.”  And I will be proud to have been a supporter since I first saw the film at an early morning showtime in May 2011.

The titular beaver puppet is actually not a product of the insanity of Walter Black, Gibson’s character.  Well, at least not in the sense that TMZ tries to paint him as insane.  Walter’s been asleep at the wheel for years, failing as a parent and husband.  After a severe bout with depression, he discovers the beaver puppet and begins living vicariously through it.  The beaver becomes a psychological distancing mechanism, allowing Walter to separate himself from the guilt of past deeds that weighs down on him like a rock.

What director Jodie Foster and writer Kyle Killen explore in “The Beaver” with such dexterity is how each of the other characters have their own beavers, so to speak.  Each erect false facades designed to convey a persona that does not match the person underneath.  Walter’s son, Anton Yelchin’s Porter, is trying to project that he is the polar opposite of his dad.  Yet in his evasion, he becomes even further disengaged from his family and increasingly abrasive – the very traits that precipitated his beaver crisis.

There’s also Jennifer Lawrence’s Norah, Porter’s high school classmate who is by all means considered to be the paradigmatic girl of their class.  Yet she’s struggling with dark issues of grief behind closed doors, and she is even willing to pay Porter to write a big speech for her to hide it from others.  While their unconventional romance is a subplot to the larger arc of the 90 minutes of “The Beaver,” it makes a big impact because Yelchin and Lawrence act from such a dark recess of their souls.  They manage what many actors twice their age cannot, a connection on both an intellectual and an emotional level.

So get over Mel Gibson, sit down with an open mind, and watch “The Beaver.”  If you are willing to really think, you’ll find some very interesting questions being raised.  What are the beavers in our life that keep us from loving others?  Jodie Foster shows you those of Walter, Porter, and Norah to devastating effect; it’s up to you to figure out your own.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: