Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G
sinetimore

Snap Judgments -- Jodie Foster's "The Beaver"

Hello, and welcome to a new feature from Sine Timore Entertainment And Snark, Inc.  "Snap Judgments," where I look at something and try to guage what may come of it, whether it might be any good or not.  What prompted this is the subject of this installment, Jodie Foster's "The Beaver."

...

...no snickering at the back.  Get your minds out of the gutter.

Now, back when Mel Gibson was trying to rehab his image after dumping his wife in favor of his Russian mistress, he got to work on two projects.  One was actioner Edge Of Darkness, released in Februrary when they dump all the crap.  Everyone bragged how the movie wasn't the disaster at the box office they were expecting.  That's only because expectations were so low -- it only made $81 mil worldwide.  In an effort to help out her friend, Foster bought up the script to Kyle Killen's The Beaver, and directed as well as starred opposite Gibson in it.  It was on track to be released some time this past fall.  Then the domestic abuse stuff started, and the film was quietly shelved.  Today, it was given a release date for the UK in Februrary, no release date in the US (I'm thinking DTV).  The promo trailer has been released, carrying American ratings information.

Which means we have something to go on now.

My interest here is not whether Mel Gibson should be supported, but in what kind of film this is going to be.  People have raved about how great Killen's screenplay is.  Yeah, they thought the screenplays for Hancock and Jacob's Ladder were awesome, too, and look how those movies turned out (Hancock, in particular, is radically different from what you saw on screen.  Hunt it down if you really want a reality check about writing for Hollywood).  The trailer gives us some kind of direction, and already I'm sensing a problem with it.

A little low grade searching on YouTube will bring it up (obviously, be careful with your search terms).  The trailer depicts Mel Gibson as a man at the end of his rope.  His wife has kicked him out of the house because he can't relate to her and their kid, the kid doesn't understand, and Gibson's life has gone to shit.  Then, while picking through some garbage, he finds a beaver puppet.  In another one of those "mental illness is fun and the key to a good life" cliches, Gibson begins channeling part of his mentality through the puppet, with it "talking" to him to help him with his life.  He insists everyone speak to the beaver to create a social boundary as he gets himself together (he has a card claiming his use of the beaver is actually doctor's orders).

Now, if it wasn't done as a "just trying to get back to his family", this has all sorts of dark comic possibilities.  Think about it -- a character has the chance to say exactly what they want when they want and they can't be held accountable for it, and due to the nature of movies, everything is forced down one particular path, keeping any threat firmly under control.  Using cinematic conventions for acting out or revenge fantasies is a common trope.  Wolf with Jack Nicholson used werewolf mythology (a great underrated movie).  The Mask with Jim Carrey (back when he was actually funny) used cartoon conventions.  Falling Down was just a revenge fantasy that should make everybody cringe instead of cheer, and the ending with him wondering when he became the bad guy felt at odds.  The Beaver has the makings of sort of the flip side of Anger Management, where a character is given license to lash out and because people fall for new agey shrink ideas, they allow it to continue, sort of like the first part of the episode of Family Guy where Peter discovers he's considered retarded and won't be held accountable for his actions.  This is an intelligent person given free reign to act like a dick to modern life.  The comic possibilities are endless.

The trailer, however, depicts Gibson just trying to make heads or tails of things and being depicted as sympathetic, a "aw, poor guy" vibe permeating things when he's on camera.  There's a scene where Foster is trying to push the beaver puppet aside because she wants to talk to Gibson.  That, however, wasn't the moment I gave up on watching the trailer.

The moment I gave up on the trailer happens when Gibson, who is in charge of a company, comes up with a new toy about a beaver, which I'm guessing is what he's doing channeled so others in the world can do it, too.  The toy is a smash.  Once again, this has all sorts of darkly comic possibilities as Gibson unleashes a wave of acting out, potentially turning the world into 4chan.  But given the trailer has been depicting Gibson as a good guy who's just desperate instead of mean, I'm guessing it's something he gets lauded for as a new theraputic technique.  Once scene shows him climbing out of a limo, puppet on hand and waving to a huge adoring crowd.  All the elements are there -- success in the world, building himself up, and eventually finding his worth to his family and reuniting with them.

In other words, this movie has "wasted potential" written all over it.  It tries for the warm fuzzy feelings when a more cynical, take no prisoners approach could have resulted in something really awesome.  I don't think this movie is going to save Gibson's career.
Tags: art, snap judgments
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