I'm calling it now, Mel Gibson will get an Oscar nomination for this gem. He may not win, maybe the Academy won't be able to get past his very public disgrace but dammit, if this isn't in the top five male performances this year, I'll eat my hat.
Filmed in 2009 before NIDA graduate Gibson had his very public brain explosions, it seems a fitting "return" to form for the Academy Award winner.
Academy Award winner and co-star Jodie Foster directs this small, measured and deeply moving film about a man's battle to put his life and his family back together.
Gibson is Walter Black, a hopelessly depressed toy company executive: he spends most of his time asleep and when he is awake he sleepwalks through his life neglecting his family and potentially sending his toy company down the tubes.
The stocks in Harry's company are nosediving, his wife Meredith (Foster) has thrown him out, his eldest son Porter (Anton Yelchin, Terminator Salvation/Star Trek) hates him and his youngest son Harry (Riley Thomas Stewart) just misses having a dad.
It all comes to a head one night when Walter reaches rock bottom in a cheap hotel and tries (and fails) to kill himself. Hopelessly drunk and teetering on the edge of his 10th floor balcony railing, Walter is saved... by The Beaver.
The Beaver is a beaver hand puppet saved from the dumpster and firmly attached to Walter's left hand. He talks him off the balcony and talks him up off the floor the next day. Soon The Beaver (who sonds like a Gibson-inflected Bob Hoskins) is talking for Walter and saying all the things the previously almost mute man hasn't been able to get out.
Soon things get better at home and The Beaver brings prosperity to Walter's company. I won't give you any more than this as I don't want to spoil the story.
There's also a sub-plot involving his son Porter, who hates his father so much he has a list of their similarities so he can practice not being similar, and the school hottie/valedictorian/head cheerleader Norah (X-Men: First Class's Jennifer Lawrence) who harbours a dark secret of her own.
At it's heart, The Beaver is a movie about family; how it falls apart, how it sometimes comes back together and how it deals with tragedy.
Foster ably directs this very small and well paced family drama that suffers from a few issues with script but overall is one of the standout dramas of 2011. All the actors pull off some nuanced and moving performances with Gibson taking the cake as The Beaver and his partner/patient/captive Walter. There are come moments of genuine dark humour as well as scenes that will leave the softer person surreptitiously wiping tears from their eyes.