The people have seemingly come to the conclusion that, what with the winning warlocks eating up Twitter server space, that Mel Gibson ain’t that Mad after all – at least that’s the word coming from Austin tonight. In fact, after tonight’s screening of the fallen matinee idol’s “The Beaver” at South by Southwest, Gibson might suddenly find himself a wanted man again (please cancel that “Lethal Weapon” reboot Mr. Silver! We want the original Martin Riggs back on the beat!).
Though Gibson was a no show, director and co-star Jodie Foster turned up at the film festival to champion her leading man and, obviously, gage audience reaction to the troubled (only because the studio didn’t know what to do with it after Gibson’s less-than-liked remarks and behaviour last year) dramedy.
It’s safe to say Foster returned to her hotel with a smile bigger than the lion atop the MGM grand; audience members and critics loved the flick, remarking on Gibson’s brilliant turn, but also applauding what they’d just watched. To say the film went down well is an understatement.
I can’t agree more with The Hollywood Reporter‘s belief that “In a strange way, the fact that Gibson is playing a deeply depressed, barely functional husband and father in the film — whose message is about the need for connection and helping those who are sick whether you like them or not — while providing major marketing challenges is also the key to its success with audiences. And thus it has no small potential to buoy Gibson’s public reputation.”
Now not everyone liked the film (Some had decided, being on the Gibson-hate train and all, that they weren’t going to like it from the get-go) but generally, feedback was positive.
The aforementioned trade actually went so far as to ask audience members after the show what they thought of the film.
“A young guy in his twenties said that he generally liked the film and found it very realistic — and then he uttered the words that both Gibson and the studio are desperate to hear: “It made him more sympathetic.” A woman in her thirties claimed that despite the fact that she’s not a fan of Gibson as an actor, she thought that this role and this portrayal were very good and especially fitting.
“Two separate middle-aged couples split along gender lines. The women had a warmer, more emotional response to Gibson and the movie’s difficult story line (one said she was sobbing at the end), while the men had much more trouble accepting the basic premise of the hand puppet and other aspects that one described as “trite.” One gentleman mocked the conceit as “an eighth of an inch from an old Hammer Films picture with the ventriloquist and the dummy.””
“And then the other guy uttered the words that the studio is desperate not to hear: “He’s made a lot of statements about Jews. He’s anti-Semitic.” He went on to say that Gibson’s more incendiary statements were not possible for him to get past. (Though he did just sit through the movie.)
“Several questioned said that they were not entirely able to get the recent scary public Gibson completely out of their head while watching Gibson the critically acclaimed actor. But everyone agreed that The Beaver is a surprisingly intense film (and well-directed and -written), despite some moments of humor, and that it was smart of Foster to say from the stage during the intro that “this is not a comedy.””
One attendee told Deadline that “People were really moved by it. They were rapt. He’s phenomenal. People were really surprised they could let go of all the other stuff with him. It went as good as it could have been.”
I’m all for ‘the actor and filmmaker’ Mel Gibson being back on our screens. Despite what he’s done and said off-screen* (and believe me, there’s got to be more than the story the media tells us), we can’t deny ourselves the brilliant work the man does – and will so do, if this early reaction to “The Beaver” is any indication.
I have to ask, do you guys want to see the film? Has the SXSW reaction sparked your interest or were you already planning to check it out?
* We can, despite personal feelings, laugh and applaud a convicted rapist’s amusing cameo in “The Hangover”, after all.