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Jodie Foster-Mel Gibson's THE BEAVER Early Reviews: SXSW Film Festival 2011

Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, The Beaver
Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson in Foster's The Beaver

Jodie Foster's drama – with comedic touches – The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson as an unbalanced executive who communicates through a hand-puppet beaver, had its world premiere on Wednesday night at the SWSX Film Festival.

"This is not a comedy," Foster told the audience. "The film reflects the struggle of one man in the midst of a spiritual crisis." Referring to her effort to portray "sensitivity without sentimentality," Foster then added, "This was the biggest struggle of my professional life."

Following a few postponements, Summit Entertainment will release The Beaver in the United States on May 11. In addition to Mel Gibson, The Beaver also stars Foster, Jennifer Lawrence, and Anton Yelchin.

Below are snippets from a couple of early The Beaver reviews.

As directed by Jodie Foster from the screenplay by first-timer Kyle Killen, the story takes an irreverent plot and makes it uniformly familiar, if not entirely unpleasant. Gibson demonstrates a staunch commitment to his role as an emotionally damaged man driven to excise his troubles by speaking through the titular hand puppet, but the subdued tone brings him down to earth. Eric Kohn, indieWIRE.

It's very easy to imagine a less gifted filmmaker producing a train wreck of a film using an identical script – exaggerating the highs, compartmentalizing the lows and casting a mawkish eye on everything ... . Foster finds the script's subtleties instead, and grounds the film with just enough pain to make it work. Viewers who can shake off tabloid preoccupations as they settle into the film will likely be surprised by a picture that (in a way reminiscent of Lars and the Real Girl) turns a crazy-sounding premise into something moving and sane. John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

As The Beaver moves into its second half it gets decidedly bleaker, making it clear that mental illness is not something that can be cured with a quick fix. Gibson's performance is front and center the whole time, and deservedly so. His "Beaver" persona is spirited, but it alone doesn't get laughs. It's more sad than anything else, and the moments where Walter cracks through are, indeed, heartbreaking. Jordan Hoffman at Ugo

Jodie Foster quote: The Hollywood Reporter

Photo: The Beaver (Ken Regan / Summit Entertainment)

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