The Beaver first came out in 2011 and served as Mel Gibson’s return to Hollywood after becoming the Pariah-du-jour of Hollywood. The film was a few years after his 2006 anti-semitic rant and just after his expletive-ridden comments ot his wife were released to the public. Gibson had starred in a crime thriller called Edge of Darkness in 2010, but The Beaver was the more hyped up movie, premiering at South by Southwest that year.
Gibson is in a much different place now, essentially back full-time in Hollywood and he even got an Oscar-nomination this year for his directing Hacksaw Ridge. The scent of Gibson’s controversy is still around but isn’t nearly as pungent as it was back in 2011. You can’t say that you’ve completely forgotten about it, but it isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind anymore whenever you see him.
It’s important to remember just how powerful Gibson’s controversy was back in 2011, because it gives another dynamic to his character in The Beaver, a whimsical, heartfelt story about a depressed, unbalanced man who uses a stuffed beaver to communicate and gain back his confidence. Gibson quite literally is the man at the end of his rope, with no other options or no other refuge. He isn’t so much as acting as he is being himself, grappling with dark emotions and regret and trying to find light at the other end of the tunnel.
This also makes The Beaver the perfect vehicle for Gibson to reclaim itself because its still serious but far more aloof than really anything else he could have starred in around that time. He wasn’t necessarily going to win back Hollywood in a dramatic role, and him starring in a straight-forward comedy would leave a sour taste in viewers’ mouths. The Beaver, though, balances both of these elements fastidiously, giving us humor when things get a bit too serious, and giving us drama after we laugh a bit.
Aside from Gibson, the supporting cast is pretty spectacular. Anton Yelchin of Star Trek fame, who tragically passed away, gives a bold, dramatic turn as Gibson’s son. Jennifer Lawrence stars as the cheerleader and Valedictorian who’s at the center of Yelchin’s heart, and shows that Lawrence really had that undefined star quality very early on in her career. Last but not least, Jodie Foster, who also directed the film, stars as Gibson’s conflicted wife who tries to steer him through his puppet therapy.
It isn’t a great comedy or a great drama. It doesn’t take any big risks except for casting Gibson, and even though it is good, you’ll probably forget about it right after its over. But The Beaver is worth watching solely in the context of it being Gibson’s redemption, his ride-or-die effort to earn back Hollywood’s graces with a stuffed beaver on his hand. Regardless of how you feel about the actor and his misdeeds, you still have to admire his effort.