The Beaver (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
August 24, 2011 by Dennis Amith
“The Beaver” marks Jodie Foster’s return to the director’s chair and while the film has its weak moments due to its screenplay, the performance by Mel Gibson is possibly what saves this film. The Blu-ray release features audio commentary and featurettes showcasing Foster as a director and overall, the film is worth checking out!
Images courtesy of © 2011 Summit Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Beaver
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011
DURATION: 91 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
RATED: PG-13 (Mature Thematic Material, Some Disturbing Content, Sexuality and Language Including a Drug Reference)
COMPANY: Summit Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2011
Directed by Jodie Foster
Written by Kyle Killen
Producer Steve Golin, Keith Redmon, Ann Ruark
Music by Marcelo Zarvos
Cinematography by Hagen Bogdanski
Edited by Lynzee Klingman
Casting by Allison Hall, Avy Kaufman
Production Design by Mark Friedberg
Art Direction by Alex DiGerlando, Kim Jennings
Set Decoration by Rebecca Meiss DeMarco
Costume Design by Susan Lyall
Mel Gibson at Walter Black
Cherry Jones as Vice President
Jodie Foster as Meredith Black
Anton Yelchin as Porter Black
Riley Thomas Stewart as Henry Black
Zachary Booth as Jared
Jennifer Lawrence as Norah
Walter, once a successful and happy family man, has hit rock bottom. But, in his darkest hour, he finds a rather unusual savior: a beaver hand-puppet that takes over Walter’s life in an attempt to change things for the better.
Academy Award® winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with Academy Award® winner Mel Gibson in a film critics call bold, complex, and funny.
It has been many years since actress Jodie Foster had directed a film. Her 1991 directorial debut “Little Man Tate” and her 1995 comedy “Home for the Holidays” were her last two.
But this time around Foster takes on a psychological comedy/drama with “The Beaver”.
The film revolves around the Black family, Walter Black (played by Mel Gibson) is a toy executive who is clinically depressed and is literally has withdrawn himself from life.
May it be trauma or a chemical imbalance, Black feels that going to a psychiatrist, repeating the same pill taking routine and thinking life is absolutely terrible, despite having a successful career and a loving family.
But his depression has taken its toll on his family.
His wife Meredith (played by Jodie Foster) who feels that her husband has been away for the last two years has focused her energy on her engineering career and developing a roller coaster with her Tokyo clients; their eldest son Porter (played by Anton Yelchin) is a college student who is paid to write reports for other students but also has been cataloging the similarities of his dad’s depression with his own and their younger son Henry (played by Riley Thomas Stewart) wants his father healthy again and while at school, is often bullied.
Needless to say, the Black family has become quite dysfunctional to the point that Meredith has no choice but to have Walter move out of the house.
Walter checks into a hotel and throws away nearly everything except a beaver hand puppet. One day as he tries to kill himself but is unsuccessful. He ends up injuring himself instead and knocking himself out cold. When he wakes up, he is awaken by the beaver puppet known as “The Beaver”, an alternate personality which allows Walter to communicate with people.
With the Beaver, Walter lets the people he communicates with know that it is a way for him to clinically help him through severe depression. Walter tells his wife that it was recommended to him by his psychiatrist.
And immediately, The Beaver helps bring Walter back from the darkness as he is able to reconnect with his son and his wife and also the people of the toy company that he runs.
Walter through the Beaver is able to make a return back to society and also come up with a brilliant toy idea bringing the highest profits for his ailing toy company but also establishing the bond with his family.
Meanwhile, his son Porter doesn’t like the fact that his father is back and to make things worse, he worries that he is becoming more like his father (in terms of having symptoms of his depression). Porter is also starting to take a liking to Norah (played by Jennifer Lawrence) who has come to him about his side-job of writing reports for students. And as Porter finds himself wanting to help her, he also finds himself falling for her. But with his father back at home and his own personal worries about depression, can he fall in love?
But Meredith starts to worry about Walter because it appears the Beaver is starting to take control of Walter’s life, to the point that Walter can’t return back to his normal self. And to make things worse, she contacts his psychiatrist to find out about the treatment he gave but to find out that Walter lied.
Walter begins to think that the Beaver is a real being and instead of helping him become a better person, it’s starts to drive away the people he loves the most… his family.
“The Beaver” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is very good, definitely feels as if there was a cooling filter applied to make things a bit more blue but it does fit the emotional atmosphere of the film. Colors are vibrant, black levels are very deep and I didn’t notice any speckles or artifacting.
For the most part, the picture quality for “The Beaver” is very good.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Beaver” is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1. The lossless soundtrack is primarily front and center-channel driven. Dialogue is crystal clear but sometimes there were moments where I needed to have subtitling on as I felt I was missing some dialogue during conversations. There is a good amount of ambiance featured through the surround channels. For example, when Porter is at school, you can hear the crowds at school through the surround channels. Also, during Porter banging his head on the wall can be heard.
For the most part, the lossless soundtrack is adequate for this type of film and for the most part audio quality is very good.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“The Beaver” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring an in-depth commentary by director Jodie Foster.
- Deleted Scenes – (4:52) Featuring two deleted scenes: Role Play and Puppet Pull with optional commentary by director Jodie Foster.
- Everything is Going to Be OK – (12:06) Director Jodie Foster talks about the film, the characters and the cast. The cast talk about their involvement in the film.
“The Beaver” is an intriguing film that tends to blend in comedy with psychological drama and sometimes it works (if more as a comedy ala “The Cable Guy”) but as a serious film, especially about depression, some may feel it’s a bit farfetched as a man would become internationally popular because he holds a puppet to deal with his severe depression.
In this day and age, depression affects a lot of people and many get treatment or take the medicine needed to help them deal with the illness. “The Beaver” in the other hand, while interesting, tries to show a juxtaposition of the main character Walter, as he deals with his sickness via the alternate personality he has created. And to see the other side via his son Porter, who worries that he may have the same sickness that his father had.
And there was one scene that was very important was that His father and his father and his father’s father had the illness as well. So, there is that connection of family history of depression.
But “The Beaver” is a film that I felt was underdeveloped. Listening to the audio commentary, Jodie Foster mentioned of having to decide if Walter’s depression should be explained. I felt that for many people, severe depression for those not familiar with it, may be thought as how one feels for a temporary amount of time and not thinking that it is a serious illness that must be treated. The film needed to show that destination of pain and withdrawal but the opening skims through it too quickly. Yes, we know he’s depressed but viewers needed to know how badly it has been right off the bat.
The other storyline revolves around Porter and Norah, the girl he likes. We know that Walter’s family has been affected by his severe depression and for his son, not having his father but also for Porter having to worry about having depression and cataloging the similarities that he has with his father, it’s an understandable storyline. But what is a bit off is more of him trying to help Norah, which involves her deceased brother. And I felt that this emotional withdrawal on her end is understandable but once again, a character’s storyline that was underdeveloped.
I felt the screenplay needed a bit more work and it does hurt the movie. But I will say that it’s saving grace was Mel Gibson. We know that Jodie Foster is an awesome actress but at the time this film was released, Mel Gibson was no doubt seen as the public enemy in Hollywood because of the situations going on in his personal life. Does anyone want to see a Mel Gibson movie after all that has happened to him offscreen? Needless to say, he may not be a fan favorite any longer but he is still one heck of an actor and his performance made this film work.
It’s great to see Jodie Foster back as a director. She is one of the most highly experienced talents in the world today that has been working in the industry since she was in a child and has starred in many box office hits and critically-acclaimed films. But while the storyline is intriguing, mixing comedy and psychological drama is not an easy thing to do, especially when it becomes more serious. But I think it’s the challenge that probably led her to direct the film.
And as for the Blu-ray, it’s great to have an audio commentary and featurettes that showcase Foster the director as opposed to the actress. Picture quality is very good as with the audio quality as well.
While “The Beaver” may not be a box-office hit, overall “The Beaver” is an intriguing film with its solid moments of wonderful acting courtesy of both Gibson and Foster. While not a great film and has its problems with its underdeveloped screenplay, it’s still a film worth checking out.
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