Almost sunk by the ugly rumours surrounding its controversial star, Jodie Foster’s quirky indie flick – her third outing as director – will probably always struggle to hide the elephant in the room.
Ironically, what almost killed the film is exactly what ends up saving it: a frighteningly believable, career-best performance delivered by Mel Gibson himself.
Walter Black (Gibson) is depressed, drunk and completely lost. Rooting through a dumpster in a whiskey haze, he finds a shabby glove puppet which he slips on before hanging himself on a shower rail.
Waking up in a heap with a noose around his neck and a toy beaver on his hand, Walter starts moving the muppet’s mouth and growling in a gruff mockney accent – telling himself to get up and sort his life out.
With a neglected wife (Jodie Foster) who yearns to have her real husband back, a troubled teenager (Anton Yelchin) who seems to be headed in the same direction as his messed-up Dad and a crashing business empire to rescue, Walter/The Beaver has a lot of wrongs to right.
Uneven and heavy-handed in places, Foster’s oddball depression comedy rests squarely on the shoulders of its terrific cast.
Whatever personal demons he might be excising to get into Walter’s head and hand, Gibson (here sounding like an Aussie Ray Winstone) delivers an intense and nuanced performance that succeeds in carrying the film way beyond its occasionally clumsy script.
Dark, daft and totally unique, it might be remembered for all the wrong reasons but The Beaver definitely deserves to be heard.