Gibson melts down in depressing, dark comic style

Nathan Fisher

Illustration: Julie Peterson

Given Mel Gibson’s exploits of recent years, one wonders if the actor has lost his mind. Well, in “The Beaver,” the answer is a resounding YES. Gibson plays Walter Black, a former successful toy company CEO who suffers from severe depression. Black’s mental health spirals down and his wife, played by the movie’s director, Jodi Foster, kicks her husband out of the house. On his way to a hotel via a liquor store, Walter finds a beaver hand puppet in the trash and decides to take the beaver with him. Soon to come are Walter’s numerous suicide attempts and lots of drinking: can a movie get any more depressing?

Mel Gibson and Jodi Foster, two great actors, kept me in my seat thinking something of substance must be coming. When Walter gets drunk, a scene reminiscent of what happens to Gibson in “What Women Want” occurs. Instead of falling into the tub with a hairdryer, a TV falls on Walter. The next morning, instead of hearing women’s thoughts, the beaver puppet is on Walter’s hand talking to him.

Thankfully, the beaver adds a weird comic twist to this depressing film as he helps Walter get his groove back and reunite with his wife and kids. Walter, however, can only communicate and function through the beaver! He showers with the beaver on his hand (told you it was strange), runs with the beaver on his hand, and brushes the beaver’s teeth! The weirdness continues as ultimately the beaver tries to take over Walter and eventually attacks him. Yes, Gibson finally gets to fight and beat himself up!

“The Beaver” was not a big blockbuster hit, and I can see why. A movie about depression, suicide and a dysfunctional family is frankly depressing to watch. I found myself laughing at scenes that probably were not intended to be funny. I have to give Mel Gibson credit though: He gave life to the puppet with the Michael Caine accent in this dark, slightly humorous movie.