Film Review: The Beaver: 90 minutes of rich people crying

28 Jul

Fact: Real Beavers are more entertaining than this movie.

The Beaver, as a notion, confused me slightly. The pitch sounded like what could at one end of the spectrum be a Farrelley Brothers-esque joyous romp in gross idiocy, or a Coen Brothers joyous romp in clever lunacy. What I got instead was neither, which should teach me never to have expectations. But then again, while this film was neither of these things, it wasn’t something else either. This film, when I wasn’t too busy rolling my eyes or squirming to notice, was very very sincere. It was about a man talking through a beaver puppet, and was not even remotely funny. That marketing error is mistake number one.

Mistake number two was Jodie Foster thinking anyone would care about Walter Black(Mel Gibson)’s personal journey, or any of his family members. Here is a group of people who live privileged, white, upper-middle class existences. They have ironic jobs like ‘Roller-coaster Engineer’ (ooooh, is that, like, a metaphor?) and ‘Toy Manufacturing Mogul’. They are Super-hot valedictorian gifted artist head cheerleaders. They are super intelligent gifted writers with mystique. They are adorable blonde haired ragamuffins who are undemanding and sweet natured. They live in houses with marble kitchens, heated swimming pools and his ‘n’ her’s Mercedes. Oh, and did I mention they’re all depressed? And have identity crises? And just can’t bear the tortured pain of being white and wealthy in the western world? And nobody takes their pain for serious because they’re rich and white and educated? Poor dumplings! Little snootchie! There there.

Walter Black has approximately five minutes of misery time, in which he runs a toy company he inherited (something established early that he was not in fact qualified for or capable of) from his father. Walter wants to kill himself because he is super-depressed. Maybe this is justified, maybe not. All the film seems to be saying at this point is WAH! WAAAAAH! JUST BECAUSE I HAVE EVERYTHING ON A PLATTER DOESN’T MEAN I HAVE TO BE HAPPY! WAAAAAAH! Which yes, I agree Jodie, mental illnesses like depression can effect people entirely across the socio-economic strata. Why though Jodie, why are we supposed to be interested in this guy? Just because he’s depressed? And he’s a father? Is this an everyman story? Your conflict COULD have come from doing the same thing, but with a guy wherein it actually MATTERS if he shows up to work. We’d see him struggle with being forced to keep it together, a journey that really matters. Instead, Walter is indulged endlessly by a bunch of saps with his signature on their paycheck.

So, mistake number three. You’ve given us a rich guy with everything, who might like to kill himself. Instead, he starts talking through a beaver puppet. Brilliant! Now he can say whatever he likes! And what does he like to talk about? Why, the fact that he has a puppet on his hand, that’s what! There is a lot of incendiary talk from the beaver about slashing and burning and rubble. There was comic AND dramatic potential in that. So what do Walter and the Beaver do? Why they do some woodworking with their neglected blonde child, is what! Heartwarming stuff. There’s a bit of psychobabble about starting again and erasing the past, and Walter apparently needs the puppet to do it. This is accepted by everyone immediately. The older son sulks about it for a while but mostly he’s thinking about himself. Mostly, everyone just thinks about themselves. The audience mostly thinks about lunch.

So then a bunch of stuff happens, and while it is theoretically very touching and junk, it still sounds like a bunch of people stamping around banging the pots of their misery. Mel Gibson does a good job with his acting, I can’t deny that. But this mess can’t be saved by performances. If you want a make a comedy, make it funny. If you want to make an art film, make it deep. If you want to make a weepy, make it sad. And if you want to see a film that plays like a streak of noisy beige against a cinema wall, see The Beaver.

In Cinemas August 4. If you care.

(By Lizzie Lamb,


One Response to “Film Review: The Beaver: 90 minutes of rich people crying”


  1. The Beaver, 2011 | Huikmin Kwon - July 22, 2012

    […] with that. Elizabeth Lamb put one possible reason I agreed with in Australian Film Review (The Beaver: 90 minutes of rich people crying). Artistry can be discovered by following generations such as Picasso’s case. In my opinion, […]

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