The Beaver, 2011, Mel Gibson

“Hello. I’m The Beaver. And I’m here to save your career.”

Whether you’ve forgiven Mel Gibson for his self-righteous behavior, anti-Semitic tirades, racist rants, and alleged wife-beating ways or not (in which case I completely understand), I think it’s a tragedy that one of the best movies of 2011 will probably never get the recognition it deserves because it stars a man who occupies a spot on Hollywood’s permanent blacklist.

But I’m not here to throw a pity party for Mel Gibson. I don’t think any man who hits beautiful women, drives drunk, and owns an island the size of a small country is deserving of much pity. But acknowledgement for his extraordinary acting ability? Sure.

Like the guy or not, I think there are few people who would deny that Mel is a talented actor. I mean, not once during The Beaver did I feel like punching him in his douchey, N-word spewing face, and that is saying something. I went in with low expectations and a healthy dose of cynicism, yet by the time the end credits rolled I felt ready to take back every harsh word I had ever said against Mel Gibson. Well, okay, not exactly…but it kind of felt like that! That’s how a good actor is capable of making you feel.

And I have to agree with the critics who are saying The Beaver is one of Gibson’s best roles. For 91 minutes, I was somehow able to completely forget all about Mel Gibson the person and warmly embrace Mel Gibson the clinically depressed husband and father of two, who after a mental breakdown and subsequent suicide attempt decides to wear a beaver puppet on his arm and communicate exclusively through his new stuffed friend’s persona thereby regaining his confidence and ability to function. It’s all very Lars and the Real Girl (a brilliant film) except perhaps with better directing (Jodie Foster), more of a focus on dysfunctional family dynamics, and a bit of a shock ending.

Though a ridiculous-sounding premise, The Beaver is a thoroughly enjoyable dramedy that just seems to work and the reason why it works is Mel Gibson, who manages to pull off two simultaneously demanding roles in a single film. Despite his status as one of America’s most disliked people, I am not so jaded by the media’s anti-Mel Gibson crusade that I am incapable of recognizing talent when I see it. If you’re able to separate an artist’s ability from his or her personal life and appreciate their work despite personal shortcomings, well congratulations on being a rational person. You know, Polanski may be a rape artist but I’m not afraid to admit that I really enjoy his movies. And Michael Jackson may or may not have been a kid-toucher, but whenever Billie Jean comes on, I always turn that shit up.

Go see The Beaver. It is a beautiful film that will make you laugh, cry, and all that good stuff if you just give it a chance. And if you can’t suspend your personal disdain for Mel Gibson, well, you just might be missing out on a really great movie.