Mel Gibson’s choice for a prospective second comeback couldn’t have been more lucky. Had he filmed this movie after his latest meltdowns, he still couldn’t have chosen a better role given that most audiences would have trouble separating any character from the actor and his many mistakes. So the role of failed husband and father who cuts himself off from his family until he discovers an alternative mode of communication (with a severe suggestion of mental illness) is embarrassingly ideal.
Despite the film’s sincerity, it is still a dark comedy and I laughed out loud at a half dozen moments that I think were intended to be (again, darkly) funny. Ray Winstone’s voice as the puppet has a gravelly quality so similar to Gibson’s that it is quite credible as Gibson’s own voice with Foreign Accent Syndrome.
Anton Yelchin as his son is much better than, say, Ashton Holmes in the comparable role in A History of Violence although, in contrast to Cronenberg’s preferences, there is plenty of Theme to go around in The Beaver. Nonetheless, I thought the son’s ghost-writing subplot nicely underlined his dad’s situation in the vein of Ryan Gosling’s co-workers with their action figures and stuffed animals in Lars and the Real Girl. Since Yelchin never verbally observes that he was being a “beaver” for other people I don’t think the film can be accused of being too thematically on the nose, especially since the whole premise is that the son is exactly like his father and neither of them want to be him.