Friday, May 20, 2011

Jodie Foster: Man's Search for Meaning(The Beaver)

The family drama has only so many pathways it can take to unravel its story; its power lies in the hands of the writer and director to move us and bring these characters to life in a fresh, unforced way.

And so Jodie Foster's new film as director and actress, The Beaver, opens to a mixed reception. How exactly are audiences and critics supposed to receive a movie as bizarre and brave as this? Not at all, or snidely, as word of mouth would have you believe. Yet they are the ones missing out on an adventurous, challenging experience.

Foster has always maintained a refreshing perspective as a helmer; Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays both straddled the line between mainstream and personal expression. The Beaver is no exception. The way she wields the unlikely elements of this story is pretty incredible, fitting her famed filmic personality to her own imaginative urges as an artist.

Mel Gibson's performance as Walter Black, a toy company CEO going through a heavy mid-life crisis, is nothing short of revelatory. As he becomes fixated on communicating through a beaver handpuppet with a Scot accent, the film teeters into uneasy territory. But Foster ingeniously blends satire, melodrama and pathos into an eye opening commentary on the type of film this film would appear to belong to. Yet The Beaver is a stand alone work.

The utilization of Gibson's controversial public persona informs his wounded turn, which reminds us what a great actor he is. Kyle Killen's screenplay is courageous and moving. Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence are excellent support, and Marcelo Zarvos' score is playful yet reflective.

The loose ends are bound tightly by film's end, and though imperfect, The Beaver is a dark and funny exploration of insanity and all of our quests for the meaning of our lives.

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