The early reviews are mixed for Jodie Foster's "The Beaver," starring Mel Gibson as a depressed man who communicates through a beaver hand puppet. It premiered yesterday at the South by Southwest music and film festival. Karen Valby of Entertainment Weekly reports, "The movie is good, or at least fine, people seemed to agree as they made their way up the crowded aisle." She summarizes, "Mel Gibson is good. Sad and moving and good. Whether audiences will have a stomach for him, let alone a film about the drowning ache of depression, let alone a film that involves you explaining to your date that The Beaver refers to a beaver hand puppet, remains to be seen. It's a hard sell every way around."
Catherine Shoard of London's "Guardian" is more optimistic about the prospects of Gibson's "public rehabilitation." But she doesn't agree that Foster's film and Gibson's acting are "good" or even "at least fine." She writes, "At about the halfway point, the film lurches from a 'The Kids Are All Right'-style soap into something closer to 'Black Swan.' Or, rather, it starts oscillating wildly between the two."
As for Gibson's performance, Shoard notes, he "is undeniably well cast, yet even ignoring the baggage he now shoulders, it's hard to feel moved by his performance: all control and guile, even in the most emotional moments. What it is is, from time to time, is genuinely frightening; the glazed puppy-dog eyes, the pep-talks to himself urging that he 'snatch your joy back from the blood-sucking rabble.' If it weren't for all those kooky cellos [on the sound track], this could be a serial killer flick."