‘The Beaver’ isn’t Mel Gibson’s confession

“The Beaver” is a very good film – it may wind up as one of the year’s best – but Christians should be careful not to mistake it for something many believers would like to see: Mel Gibson’s confession.

Ever since Gibson’s 2006 DUI arrest and subsequent anti-Semitic tirade, followed by the accusations of physical and verbal abuse made last year by his then-girlfriend, many of those who embraced Gibson as the director of “The Passion of the Christ” have been unsure of what to do with him. (I wrote a post about this tension last year.)

Now along comes “The Beaver,” in which the disgraced actor plays Walter, a clinically depressed toy-company executive and father who goes to drastic lengths to face his inner demons, seek help and bring his family back together. Could this be Gibson using his onscreen life as a model for his real one?

“The Beaver,” directed by longtime Gibson collaborator Jodie Foster, makes clever use of the actor’s unique screen persona. He brings a tempered lunacy to his parts that makes it completely believable when Walter wakes up after a particularly painful bender to find a ratty beaver hand puppet talking to him. The puppet (voiced by Gibson in his native Australian accent) suggests a new form of therapy, in which Walter will wear the beaver at all times and only speak through it - even when in bed with his wife.

Perhaps only Gibson’s distinct brand of craziness could make this work (though Foster’s judicious camerawork certainly helps). Even when talking to a hand puppet, the actor proves to be an empathetic vessel for failure and despair - his Walter is beaten, hollow and irretrievably sad. When Walter begins to turn the corner, the movie’s goofiness becomes poignant. We find ourselves, against all odds, rooting for Walter (and the puppet) and maybe, in the back of our minds, rooting for Gibson as well.

In the way that it artfully engenders empathy for victims of depression, “The Beaver” deserves our admiration. But we should be careful not to see a confluence between Gibson and Walter. Not because we don’t want to let Gibson “off the hook,” but because the hook itself isn’t our concern.

Whether or not Gibson has sought repentance in his life shouldn’t matter to moviegoers. As many of the commenters on my earlier Gibson piece noted, this isn’t between Gibson and us, it’s between Gibson and God first, then between Gibson and the people he may have hurt.

Confessions are tricky things, especially public ones that are made through the media to people who have no business hearing them (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent mea culpa comes to mind). Authenticity seems impossible in such a public space. And anyway, the rest of us are in no position to grant any sort of absolution, much less create the judgmental culture that may have coerced the confession in the first place. When it comes to assessing another fallen being’s fallibility, most of us are out of our league.

So go see “The Beaver,” by all means. It’s a loopy and honest exploration of the awkwardness, confusion and hurt that can accompany mental illness.

Is it also Mel Gibson’s confession?

Who cares?

Josh Larsen is editor of ThinkChristian. He also writes about movies at LarsenOnFilm.com and on Facebook.

Comments (5)

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Any part of me that longs for the "confession" of another is a part of me that is not loving that individual completely. This way of thinking is one of the primary targets that un-believers strike at when bringing criticism against christians, and I think they are right to do so. This feeling is not one of waiting to celebrate with the confessor, but rather a sense of being "incensed" about their behavior, even though it is not pointed at us, and is really none of our business.
I've always liked Mel Gibson on screen, and have been mostly disgusted and mystified by his real-life persona (which probably could be applied to many more than just Gibson).  What I have been impressed by in the contex of his ongoing issues has been the loyalty and supportive confidence of professional partner and patient friend, Jody Foster.
I agree that private, one-on-one or small group confession is preferable. A cleansing experience, per 1 Jn 1:9. But when one is a public figure, and shortcomings make the news, what is the best method for making things right with all those who have felt the sting? I've been looking forward to The Beaver, but not as a confession. Now your comments got me thinking. I'm wondering what his intentions were in making it. Perhaps Gibson has, or will, shed light on that at some point.
And if this film was Gibson's confession, people still wouldn't be satisifed. Audiences that cannot see "a Mel Gibson" film because they cannot dissociate him from his work are fickle and hypocritical. Unless you personally know Gibson, how... does his off-screen antics really affect you? It shouldn't, because all we as movieoers know of Gibson is what we've see onscreen. Like his friend, Jodie Foster has proclaimed, we shouldn't condone or excuse his actions (that's on him) but at the same time we also shouldn't vehemently turn away from his work or condemn him. On a secular level: grow up! From a Christian perspective: show grace and rise above the vitirol criticism the media and those around you spew. Take a movie at face value, for what it is and what it is trying to do/say.
Good afternoon all please do not take this personal...I 'm just trying to figure out why people can't look at these movie star, singer and actors as normal people ...They look at them like they are god and are very quick to judge for the sake of conversation or put their lives up on a screen for sake of a disscussion wow!!!! They are normal people like our selves what ever he has done to his girlfriend that is between him and god and as long as god has forgiven him who are we to be so quick to judge...What if by chance that we where rich verses poor how will we feel if our life was up for grabs on a big screen internet ect...I'm in disbelif because i find that only two kind of people are talk about it's either you have to had to commit a horriable crime or you are rich and famous mmmmmmmmmmm amazing))) and why is it that he have to be a disgrace actor see how that sounds so ulgy are we really thinking like christian. I know this that as we pass judgement on ones life that same judgement shall be pass on our life too...Have a bless day all.

 

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