Feature

The Beaver

Mel Gibson plays a suicidal toy manufacturer who communicates through a beaver puppet as a form of self-therapy.

Directed by Jodie Foster
(PG-13)

***

The Beaver is “both problematic and intriguing,” said Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune. If nothing else, it “reasserts the feverish, defiant, often gripping talent” of Mel Gibson. Gibson plays a suicidal toy manufacturer whose marriage to Jodie Foster’s character is on the rocks. In an attempt to get his life back together, he devises a form of self-therapy by communicating only through a beaver puppet. As the film’s director, Foster was brave to tackle such darkly eccentric material, said Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. But she needed a much surer hand. There’s an emotional disconnect between the characters, and subplots are “randomly strung together and left to flutter, aimlessly, in the wind.” Considering Gibson’s real-life scandals, his madman act here could well be “the only sort of role in which audiences would be willing to accept him,” said Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. “The surprise is the lovely job he does with it.” By channeling his considerable “reserves of sorrow and disappointment,” Gibson “gives a performance of such pain and insight that he makes the case for himself as an actor again.”

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