During the pre-release promotion for her new film, The Beaver, director/star Jodie Foster participated in a roundtable interview with members of the Boston-area film media including Bob "MovieBob" Chipman of The Escapist. The following quotations from Ms. Foster are taken from this interview.
"I think you need to ask yourself the question - which I do with my films - 'is it true or is it not true?'"
-- Jodie Foster
The Beaver (might as well get it out of your system now) is a strange film: It's predominantly a serious family drama about surviving clinical depression but also a pitch-black comedy that plays like a brutal satire of "happy" movies where (perceived) magical intervention or "wacky" lifestyle changes repair a damaged person. The dicey subject matter - touching on grim topics like suicide, self-mutilation, and marriages in free-fall - was always going to be a hard sell and that's before you consider that the lead role is filled by Mel Gibson, the pre-Charlie Sheen poster child for self-inflicted career implosion.
"I needed somebody to carry the weight of the drama, and who would understand not to play into the comedic elements of it. Somebody who could take the audience ... who'd held a film together before, could take the audience through the story, and I feel like [Mel Gibson] and I know each other so well, that there's real compassion between the two of us."
-- Jodie Foster
Gibson is Walter Black, a once-successful family man who's been rendered into little more than a zombie by a deep depression that no amount of therapy seems to help. He sleeps through most of the day, barely speaks to his wife (Jodie Foster), and lets his business (in a touch of supreme irony, he owns a toy company) wither around him. His youngest son is just young enough to be merely confused, but his eldest (Anton Yelchin) is taking it rough, hiding a secret "dent" in his bedroom wall used for the specific purpose of bashing his head into a daze, meticulously cataloging behavioral resemblances to his father he aims to purge from his person, and operating a thriving criminal enterprise forging essays for fellow students. As the film opens, Walter has moved, "for the good of the family," into a hotel suite, where his failed attempt at suicide-by-alcohol impedes his attempts at suicide-by-everything-else.
At some point in the midst of this final breakdown (The Beaver isn't really big on events happening with specific explanation), Walter randomly decides to pluck a plush Beaver hand-puppet from a dumpster. When he awakes from his near-suicidal stupor, the puppet is on his hand and talking to him in a voice that sounds like Ray Winstone impersonating Michael Caine. We're to understand that Walter has suffered a psychotic break and that his id, or something like it, is now speaking for itself through The Beaver.
"[Mr. Beaver is] a survival tool. Is it an 'erroneous' survival tool? Probably, but it was the only one he could think of that would get him out of this ... but that survival tool, after a while you have to get rid of that, too."
-- Jodie Foster.