"The Beaver" would have probably been your standard feature film about a suicidal man who uses a hand puppet as a way to better interact with the world around him had its star, Mel Gibson, not uncorked a few hate-filled rants that would ultimately lead to the actor being charged with spousal abuse.
To say "The Beaver" entered the South by Southwest film festival with some baggage, then, doesn't capture the half of it. The spectacle of watching an actor in the midst of a meltdown portray a man in the midst of a meltdown is hard to resist. But it's going to be a while until the masses get to check out the action, as Summit Entertainment has pushed back the movie's release date until May. Until then, check out what critics at SXSW had to say after the film's premiere Wednesday.
Getting Past the Spectacle, Part I "Those echoes of Mel Gibson's well-publicized breakdowns are impossible to ignore in an opening sequence introducing us to his character Walter Black, who first appears floating in a pool, arms outstretched like Christ's. A few shots later, we see this 'hopelessly depressed man,' who has tried everything to remedy his condition, flagellating himself like a Catholic penitent. Whether intentional or not, this front-and-center reminder works almost as an inoculation to viewers for whom controversy might be a distraction from drama: Having put it out there frankly (much as the protagonist will soon do, in more outlandish ways, with his own issues), the movie kills a bit of our morbid curiosity; our awareness that this depressed character is being played by a troubled actor never vanishes, but it is allowed to inform the story at hand." — John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
Getting Past the Spectacle, Part II "Casting Mel Gibson is both a blessing and a curse. Not since 'I'm Not There' have I spent more time during a film having a meta-textual conversation with myself. What were the people on set thinking as they watched Gibson crack? Did making this film help Gibson's mental health, or make it worse? Truth be told, this extra dimension only aids the film." — Jordan Hoffman, UGO
Mel's Performance "His solo scenes are both absurd and darkly unsettling for several reasons, some of which depend on your tolerance for watching the notoriously bad-tempered actor, well, lose his temper: Whether awkwardly failing to hang himself in a bathtub or beating himself up with a guitar, Gibson demonstrates an expansive madness that suggests a much darker, more involving psychological transition." — Eric Kohn, IndieWire
The Big Picture, Part I "It may surprise some of you to learn that the story is more of a drama than a comedy. As you might expect, there are comedic moments that come from the puppet's inclusion in various situations. But the story aims more for drama than comedy. 'The Beaver' is too ridiculous to be taken seriously, and too melodramatic to be funny. Foster wrestles to capture the right tones, but the shifts are messy from scene to scene, and it never seems to find the right fit." — Peter Sciretta, SlashFilm
The Big Picture, Part II " 'The Beaver' is not a comedy, it's true, but it is a deft exploration of the ways we struggle to express something as ineffable as depression, and the lengths we will endure to save our families. It is a potent reminder of why [director] Jodie Foster should have made more movies by now. And it is a strong beginning for screenwriter Kyle Killen." — Drew McWeeny, HitFix
Check out everything we've got on "The Beaver."
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