Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Beaver (Rhoades)

Mel Gibson Leaves It to “The Beaver”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

     Mel Gibson has always excelled at playing slightly unbalanced characters. As a young Australian actor, he made his mark as “Mad Max.” He was a developmentally deficient young man in “Tim.” Later, he scored as a mentally-unstable cop in the “Lethal Weapon” series. He was cast a paranoid taxi driver in “Conspiracy Theory.” He even had a run as the melancholy “Hamlet.” Now he plays a depressed toy executive who must rely on a beaver puppet to communicate with his family.
     Great acting – or typecasting?
     Truth is, the real life of Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson has been crazier than any of his characters. Once an A-List actor, he has all but trashed his career by a series of antics that have been described as homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, and misogynistic. Being an avowed Catholic, his divorce from longtime wife Robyn made headlines. His rants during DUI arrests have been splashed over the Internet. And his tirades with former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva were featured on the 10 o’clock news.
     This rep has come back to “to bite me on the ass,” he admits. Set to do a small role in “The Hangover II,” he was dumped from that film after the cast and crew objected to working with him. (See accompanying review of “The Hangover II.”)
     He claims to be manic-depressive. Just like his character in this new film.
     “The Beaver” – now playing at the Tropic Cinema – is one of the most unusual tales to come out of Hollywood in years.
     This is the story of a once-successful toy executive and family man who suffers from suicidal depression. Walter Black (Gibson) can’t seem to get himself back on track … until he starts talking to people using a beaver hand puppet that he finds in a Dumpster. His wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) tolerates this eccentricity because their youngest son (Riley Thomas Stewart) relates to this fuzzy friend of dad’s. But his oldest son (Anton Yelchin) objects to this nutty behavior. What’s to become of this family?
     More to the point, what’s to become of Mel Gibson?
     “I don’t care if I don’t act anymore,” Gibson says, adding “I could easily not act again. It’s not a problem.”
     “The Beaver” marks Mel Gibson’s reunion with Jodie Foster, who co-starred with him in “Maverick.” Foster both directs and co-stars in this quirky film.
     Why did she cast Gibson? “I’m not defending him,” says Foster. “I can't defend what he does. He has to defend what he does. But he’s an excellent actor. He’s a great friend. He’s someone I love. When you love somebody, you don’t just run away from them when they’re struggling. I will always be there.”
     Films either starring or directed by Mel Gibson have earned over $2.5 billion, in the United States alone. He won an Academy Award for directing “Braveheart.” And “The Passion of Christ” grossed in excess of $600 million during its theatrical release, making it the highest grossing non-English language film of all time. Gibson personally earned more than $300 million from “The Passion of Christ.”
     But this one won’t be one of Gibson’s big moneymakers.
     The odd little movie was already topically a tough sell before casting Mel Gibson.
“Obviously, Mel Gibson’s problems have been an issue for the film for distribution,” admits Foster. “But we all know the strength he shows on the screen. He’s also witty. He can be funny and charming. I knew he would bring an affability to the role of Walter. He’s a soulful, interesting guy who knows a lot about struggle.”
And he’s actually a good choice for “The Beaver,” a film that offers the perfect metaphor for somebody who builds something and destroys it at the same time.
[from Solares Hill]

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