6 May 2011 | Jawsphobia
Mel may be flawed in life but the movie is a keeper
I'd give this movie a full ten if not for confusion over the "weighted average" system in which IMDb supposedly disregards a lot of extreme highs or lows. And speaking of highs and lows, who better than a bi-polar actor to not only accept a stigmafied role of someone with a mental disorder but also to get past that and offer the meat and potatoes of entertainment as well? Full disclosure: I am on Team Mel when it comes to an ex girlfriend making headlines with her personal life with reckless disregard for the personal and professional toll; an overkill gesture followed-up ultimately by withdrawal of charges. . .
I won't get into debates over context and word choices in someone's private conversations or during a fit of rage. But others like to, and perhaps for that reason I was only one of about 21 people in the late showing of The Beaver opening night at the Varsity in Toronto, cinema 8. Apparently the VIP cinema there had a screening that started 20 minutes earlier, but I don't know how that or earlier screenings were attended. I'm hoping the movie does better. Even with a small crowd, the audience I was in responded with laughter where appropriate, and the atmosphere was often charged with anxious energy.
Jodie Foster is very dear in her own performance, and her directing choices don't falter. Mel gives glimpses of his goofy persona and one can speculate about which bits of whimsy might have been his contributions, but he also lets us dislike the character a bit or the condition he suffers and the film goes to some dark places. Nobody in the theatre dared laugh at the point that is most drastic and also anxiety inducing. In someone else' hands this film could easily be a TV Movie of the Week.
The woman who played the Sheriff in Signs is again Mel's confidant in The Beaver for the half of the story involving his business. Anton Yelchin (the new Scotty in Star Trek) is impressively grounded even as he suffers through some of his father's inherited symptoms and those typical of teens anyway.
If you are poisoned against Mel, I'm not going to say go see it but I'll go out on a limb and suggest that one of the opening sequences where he is at his lowest ebb might be especially entertaining for people who hate him and there is a certain gallows humour that might allow you to relax your guard. The daring premise and loving execution of the film from everyone involved is a nice mix and the film deserves a better fate than it is likely to get with gossips fanning the flame of scandal.
"Everyone loves a train wreck, especially one they're not in." - The Beaver
I know people are clogging the box office lines for Thor this weekend, and I haven't heard anything negative about that movie but I'm glad I saw The Beaver and that I can honestly say it is more than just weird; it is actually also out on a limb and inspiring without feeling like a cheat. That's my two cents anyway.