In Which Mel Gibson Enters into a Spiral of Depression and Possible Schizophrenia 

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The Beaver
Directed by Jodie Foster

As you may have heard, Mel Gibson is in The Beaver, directed by Jodie Foster (she co-stars, too), a middling family drama about the ripple effects of depression. He plays Walter Black, a father of two who does nothing but sleep (bitter irony: he's the CEO of a toy company), and so his wife (Foster) kicks him out of the house. He tries to hang himself on a motel shower rod with his necktie and fails , but winds up knocking himself unconscious, and in the morning wakes up talking to the tattered, evidently Australian beaver puppet on his left hand.

Turns out The Beaver is a real go-getter, and Walter passes him off as a "prescription hand puppet,"refusing to remove him or shirk the persona. His wife tentatively takes him back (though The Beaver attends their lovemaking, testing her patience), but his older son, Porter (Anton Yelchin), just bangs his head on, and eventually through, the wall of his room—talk about broken homes. Depression also appears to be part of Porter's inheritance. It's revealed in coded terms at the dinner table that Walter's father committed suicide. In some ways, the spectacle of a toxically miserable Mel might be most satisfying for those who categorically refuse to see the movie.

Pointedly unzany, The Beaver nonetheless manages to be at once enervating and unpredictable: Walter becomes a national celebrity (the Beav revitalizes his toy company, landing him magazine covers and sit-downs with Matt Lauer and Jon Stewart), before finally attempting to wrest his old self back. The most prominent subplot involves a budding romance between Porter and Norah (Jennifer Lawrence), a brainy cheerleader who has paid him $500 to write her graduation speech. Once he learns she got expelled from eighth grade after the cops busted her for tagging, he misguidedly implores her to let loose with the spray cans. The takeaway: Let your freak flag fly, but not too high—your family can only tolerate so much.

Opens May 6

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