Friday, 2 September 2011
“An elaborate mysterious plan, and a little weird – but I like it”
The Beaver: directed by Jodie Foster; written by Kyle Killen
A gimmick is a quirky feature, often superfluous, which makes something standout from its contemporaries – a diversion of sorts, if you will. In a way the eponymous creature looming over Jodie Foster’s The Beaver is a bit of a diversion for at its heart The Beaver is a perceptive look at a family in crisis. The film is set in motion when Meredith, not without love, puts her husband Walter out of their family home. He’s chronically depressed, and like the black hole depression is it threatens to take down every one in sight. A poorly planned and even more terribly executed suicide are thwarted by a hand – but not the hand of God – the hand of Walter in the guise of a puppet beaver who’s arrived to save Walter.
The dichotomy with which his sons respond poses another interesting facet. I’m not sure if Killen and Foster intend it, but by having the beaver be Walter’s way of communicating it makes me think about the socially acceptable differences between children and adults. The very act of someone using a puppet to speak differently expressing their own thoughts is a bit strange on its own. Yet, a child carousing around with the same antics as Walter would be seen as cute, and Walter’s younger son leaps at the concept with zest. His older son, as one would expect, shies away but the reasons are even more interesting. Anton Yechlin is the older son fearful of becoming his father and even as a significant amount of the film is spent examining a romance which doesn’t ostensibly add to the main plot, it does allow for an innocence in the film which becomes significant as the beaver begins to wreak havoc.
I’ve never loved Jodie Foster as an actor, but I’ve always appreciated her ability to be subtle and it’s the same subtlety she brings to her work as a director. Key scenes of the film play out with the family quartet, or subsets of it, and they manage to pack the punch they need to make the story hit home. It’s an actors’ flick and the cast shines. Ultimately, though, it’s the father/son duo of Gibson and Yechlin who come out shining brightest. As mundane as it should be, an embrace near the film’s end is unusually moving. In the end, The Beaver is unusual just because it’s NOT that unusual. It’s curious wondering where the film is going to take itself, and it’s shocking to think that the conceit of the puppet ends up being a mere ruse for something especially simple. Simple, but not simplistic.