Gentlemen, Last night, I saw what we were told was the very first screening of dir. Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks. Aside from the occasional un-color-corrected shot and some weird audio levels here and there, this appeared to be by and large a finished film. **POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD** To give a quick plot synopsis, Mel Gibson stars as Walter Black, a successful depressed rich white man that's done everything successful rich white people do to overcome their depression: medication, really expensive experts. His wife Meredith, played by Jodie Foster, chooses not to engage and loses herself in her work. They have two sons - an extremely intelligent schemer played by the very talented Anton Yelchin and a very young extremely shy son played by Riley Thomas Stewart. Walter is eventually kicked out of the house, finds a beaver puppet in the trash can, and after a failed suicide attempt he assumes the identity of the talking beaver. From there, the beaver helps him take charge of his life and surprisingly it works for awhile - family and jobwise. Meanwhile theres this other plot going on with Anton Yelchin where he's trying to write the graduation speech for the smokin' hot valedectorian played by smokin' hot Jennifer Lawrence. For both storylines, things start to descend into serious conflict. I will spare details because I'd like to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. I will say that it goes to some pretty dark places in the second act ... and then meanders around in the third. SO that brings me to what works and what didn't work for me in The Beaver. The performances all across the board were stellar - Mel Gibson delivers his best performance in well-over a decade (although he's been in like 2 movies since) and I wouldn't be that surprised if he gets a nomination out of this. There is a clear distinction in his brain between The Beaver side of him and the Walter side of him both of which glue your eyes to the screen. Jodie Foster is good overall though I wouldn't say the script gives her that much to do besides be concerned. And Anton Yelchin - this kid is goin places and I guess he's already gotten to places but he's extremely charming, believable, and has all the qualities for a soon-to-be leading man. The chemistry between him and Jennifer Lawrence is very natural. The drama in the film is very powerful - at times - and Jodie Foster does a very smooth and straight-forward job as director. There aren't any huge gimmicks and there are occasional tricky shots and sequences that spice things up. I was surprised at first at how dramatic of a film it was, there are laughs throughout but it's definitely more of a drama than a comedy. This comedic restraint works to the films advantage, because I'm sure we all could picture the painfully broad Tim Allen/Brendan Fraser/Katherine Heigl vehicle version of this movie where the puppet is CG and voiced by George Lopez. What wasn't working for me was the pace of the film, the disjointed plots, and the third act. The pace could be a pretty simple change - I think there's about 10-15 minutes could be cut out of this film easily and give it a stronger pulse - bits and pieces throughout ESPECIALLY in the third act. The disjointed plots and weak third act on the other-hand - that's kinda unfixable. The problem is.. Walter's story and Anton Yelchin's story are pretty compelling on their own and I kept waiting for stronger parallels to bring them together. There's a HUUUUGE shocking and incident (which would pain me to give away) in the end of the second act that brings them together. This is where the film had me BY THE BALLS and I was uncertain where it would go next. This is where I assumed Walter and Anton Yelchin would work out their shit - especially since they have zero screen time together leading up to this. Well.. apparently the screenwriter was equally uncertain as I was and thus wrote a sad queaf of a third act. Instead of seeing some big shift, the main characters - who are in pretty pathetic condition at this point -.... just sort of slowly get better on their own.... they KINDA connect with each other... and then it ends....... SPOILERQUEAF. I had a hard time guaging what the rest of the audience thought, as it always is with a drama. There were laughs throughout and some even clapped at the end. I heard some others complain about it too though. As a nerd rage aside, it annoys me that some script like this always tops the Blacklist every year, because its transparent. You can just picture some little development stooge reading it and just wanting option it because of its wacky logline and the fact that it's "a movie about a dude that walks around with a beaver on his hand... and it ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE." Well... ok? Is a weird idea "making sense" enough to make a good movie? If a fuckin gerbil learns how to talk and just "makes sense" does that mean the gerbil should give speeches in the UN or star in the next Todd Haynes film or run for president? Fuck, no. And crazy concepts don't make great scripts and great movies if all they are is a concept. The Beaver is slightly more than just a concept but it's definitely not a great movie either. 5/10Please keep in mind that THE BEAVER is still coming together, and that one man's "sad queaf of a third act" could be another's... brilliantly understated conclusion (sorry, but I lack the verve to complete that analogy). Still, it's great to hear that Mel is at the top of his game in a film that might be a little more challenging than EDGE OF DARKNESS. There's no release date yet for THE BEAVER, but I've a feeling it'll turn up at the Toronto Film Festival in September. Summit Entertainment will distribute in the U.S. Looking forward to it.