It's a very thin line..

A key element that all films rely on is the hope that their audience will have the ability to suspend their disbelief for the length of the film's runtime. Some truly great concepts can be born up on the screen and the ideas in them can teach and/or entertain the audience in a truly revolutionary way. But sometimes...you might be asking just too much of an audience. Some material is just too weird, bizarre, far-fetched, etc for an audience to want to accept. Such was the case for me and the film The Beaver. Now, I'm a true believer in the "sum of all its parts" saying. I can recognize that the film does have strengths, including its strong cast (Mel Gibson does give a very good performance, as do the rest.) But the script feels uneven, and the concept lends itself to some scenes that were just too bizarre for me to swallow. I watched the film with my brothers Sean and Clayton, and Clayton's wife Kim. The verdict was split evenly across the board. Sean and Kim could suspend disbelief enough, but Clayton and I just couldn't.

This certainly wasn't the first time this has happened to me. In terms of a weird concept rooted in an otherwise realistic movie, the film really reminded me of Henry Poole is Here....which coincidentally also happens to be a favorite of Kim's. (Sorry Kim....I just couldn't get into either of these.) Sometimes an overly weird concept just puts you off from embracing something (Also Henry Poole put me off because the neighbor character was just too irritating and I, like the main character's first impression, saw her as more delusional than faithful). I don't know what exactly it is. I often love movies that combine some realism with off the wall ideas...Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Big Fish, TiMER all did this to an extent (and even the cat narrator movie I'm dying to see, The Future messes around with similar weird concepts)...but in those films when it was fantasy it was expected you knew it was completely a fantasy concept...the audience gets that. It's the weird stuff being embraced as reality that perhaps I don't love...that disbelief I just can't suspend.

Then alternatively, it's funny how a film with such a similar concept to The Beaver can turn into something that is actually really likable and insightful: Lars and the Real Girl. I remember after seeing that movie that if I tried recommending it to anyone by explaining the plot, I definitely had to choose the right words. But the gimmick of that plot is a means to an end that explores deeper issues....and while The Beaver seeks to explore issues too....for me it never overcomes its gimmick....it is just a bit too inseparable from it....don't ask me why. In fact...Roger Ebert's review is right on with how I felt...and I'm going to quote the end of what he has to say. Beware spoilers:

"What sort of movie would have resulted with the same characters but not the Beaver? We will never know. But without "The Beaver," we would never have witnessed a sexual threesome involving a hand puppet. Foster and Gibson must have gone through some serious times while making this film, but don't you suppose that while filming that sex scene they had to suppress the urge to giggle? That is the fatal flaw in this sincere endeavor. As good as Gibson is, his character is still caught between the tragedy of the man and the absurdity of the Beaver. Fugitive thoughts of SeƱor Wences crept into my mind. I'm sorry, but they did. "

As I said, I completely agree. Too hard for me not to be fully aware of the gimmick at all times. But still...you could probably do worse for entertainment these days...but you can definitely do better. I liked the cast a lot, and the side story of the son's character held the most interest to me. Like Ebert said...it's a shame you can't see the cast in a different film minus the beaver. But at least the two young leads I can see together again. I'm excited to see Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence reunite for Like Crazy. They had some great chemistry here and I hope they brought it to their second project as well.

Anyway boys and girls...the moral of the story is that the movie has to be as good as its concept...and the concept can't be too outrageous...otherwise the audience just won't want to suspend their disbelief. And then where will you be? Probably a beaver puppet in a dumpster...that's where. I give The Beaver 5/10 beaver puppets, purely for the efforts of the cast.


seanmackay.net said...

Thanks for putting words in my mouth, Lee. I said the movie was ok, which if I'm not crazy as a beaver, is about the same as a 5/10.

Johanna said...

Well, I haven't seen it since you chose to watch it without me. But the thing about Lars & the Real Girl was that the other characters bought into it and treated it as real and so when lose comes, it's real.

I'm reminded of Castaway where I think that Tom Hanks was brilliant enough as an actor to make us cry about a volleyball. The actors have to believe it for us to believe it. Perhaps in Henry Pool the fact that you had one actor questioning it so much (Luke Wilson...yum), it make it easier for you to keep questioning?

Joey said...

Oops, that was supposed to be when "loss comes."

Emily said...

I didn't say you liked it...all I said was you could suspend disbelief better than me. Obviously you got over the concept more.

Sarah said...

Hmmm. I'm drawing a blank. I'll have to think long and hard about some movies with far out concepts that I loved and movies that I hated.

I don't know if this counts, but I hated Housesitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin. I haven't seen it in years, so maybe I would feel differently about it now. But I thought Goldie Hawn was more irritating than funny (similar to how I felt about What About Bob). I found it unbelievable that everyone believed her wild stories.

But the thing I found to be the most unbelievable of all, was that there is supposed to be sexual chemistry between Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin. I went to see the movie with Mom in the movie theater and when Steve Martin's character propositions Goldie Hawn's character for a one night stand, I laughed out loud...I honestly thought he was joking...and then, next thing I knew it was showing "the morning after" scene. I was embarrassed for laughing when I did when I realized that the scene was being played seriously. But his intent in that scene changed so quickly, I had no idea that they would actually end up in bed together.

Emily said...

Haha! I actually love Housesitter. It's a Laurie n me movie. Haha. But I agree on the lack of chemistry!