As hysterical as is the title and its association with a certain actress/director’s much speculated about sexuality, The Beaver, which screened on Tuesday at Austin’s South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival, is off to a great start. Shown for a sold-out audience, The Beaver, directed Jodie Foster, was met by a “warm welcome” and predictions of a potential first-time acting Oscar nomination for star Mel Gibson, who was recently charged with domestic battery of his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.
Foster, adorning her Jack Nicholson shades, took the stage before the premiere and was quick to defend her good friend, asking that the audience empathize and think of any loved one who’s had problems with drinking or emotional troubles. She described the film as “not a comedy,” according to the LA Times, and had the audience both in stitches and sniffling all the way to their uproarious final ovation.
Disappointingly, though, most of the buzz around The Beaver was not about Foster’s directorial skills or co-starring role. Instead, the film’s relevance to Gibson’s tumultuous personal life has drawn most of the focus. Rather than highlighting Foster’s work, critics are bogged down by Gibson’s allegations and alcoholism, and, as indicated by the earliest reactions to the screening, have failed to truly analyze the film itself. Even Summit Entertainment, the studio supporting the film, has pushed back the public release date until May, in light of the Gibson controversy.
Gibson’s drama notwithstanding, for those who focus on the art, Foster’s work as director earned her some critical acclaim, including that from Drew McWeeny from HitFix who wrote, “[The Beaver] is a potent reminder of why Jodie Foster should have made more movies by now.” John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter noted
that had a less talented director helmed this project it would have
been a train wreck, but “Foster finds the script’s subtleties instead,
and grounds the film with just enough pain to make it work.”
While Foster described her third directorial effort as the “biggest struggle of [her] professional career,” she appears to have been successful, what with the film’s early positive reception. The film, about a severely depressed man who uses a beaver puppet as a coping mechanism, bears stark connections to Gibson’s personal and public breakdowns, and thus, the obvious comparisons between the character and the actor are inevitable. But perhaps from here on out, the Gibson gossip will subside and instead, Foster will be the focus of The Beaver’s buzz.
What’s your take on the Mel Gibson brouhaha and Jodie Foster’s filmmaking? Will you hit the theaters despite the drama?