Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Beaver (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

The Beaver

     Is it possible to separate the man from his work? Given the recent horrendous  tabloid headlines of Mel Gibson's rages, I'm not so sure.
     In "The Beaver" Gibson plays Walter, the CEO of his father's toy company and father of two. Walter is clinically depressed. It seems no one can help him. He storms and rages. He drinks and sleeps all day. And, predictably, Walter's wife leaves him. Alone in a gray apartment, he becomes a suburban Robinson Crusoe, adrift in nothingness. He watches reruns of "Kung Fu" and decides to do himself in. Walter gets tangled in the shower curtain and falls to the floor. The Tv bonks him on the head.  Masochism and suffering is a repeated element in Gibson's acting roles and one wonders if he did not take on Jodie Foster's directorial film as a way of penitence for his real-life  violent, sexist and racist tirades.
     One aspect that the movie succeeds in, is in its ability to show Walter as a dangerous being as if he is fighting a malevolent unseen force known only to himself.  Walter fights with walls, with doorhandles and tv sets. He is a one man army against himself. The solitary fight scenes are physical, loud and bloody-- and more exciting than any "Braveheart" or "Apocalypto" climax.
     The problem is that Mel Gibson and his off screen ravings are so vivid and highly charged that the character of Walter doesn't seem to hold much power. When he reaches for a way out in the form of a hand-puppet it is quirky and self deprecating at first, but  as the story unfolds,  it becomes a predictable, one handed film.
     That is not to say that it is not well acted or filmed. There is an real haunt to Mel Gibson's face. When he suffers, you feel it. And there are bedroom scenes between Walter and his wife, played by Jodie Foster that are hilarious.
     Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) appears as the girlfriend of Walter's oldest son, but despite her considerable talent, she seems a card-board cutout. Her part could have been acted by anyone. The movie is all Mel. 
     As soon as the camera drifts away from Gibson and his sarcastic handheld buddy, the movie loses its quirky hold.
     "The Beaver" is a curiousity in Mel Gibson's impassioned gallery of self immolating characters. Not Since Klaus Kinski has there been someone so iconic and tortured, or even torturous. But Gibson's moments  of humor and physical locomotion  release this movie from its ball and chain of predictability. 

Write Ian at

No comments: