This seemed like it would be a movie with a positive message to it. The previews made it seem like there was a husband/father who had fallen out of step with his family who went to drastic/silly means to bridge the barrier that was created. I like feel-good movies that promote the importance of family. This was not a feel good movie and was not a strong proponent of positive family life.
Walter is a depressed individual who is basically asleep for 2+ years, becoming a horrible burden on his family and company that he runs. He hits rock bottom and through several attempts on his own life a part of his inner being (that really wants to change) makes itself manifest through a hand puppet Walter places on his hand in a drunken stupor. Remarkably this puppet (a beaver) allows him to break the psychological barrier between his depressed self and the part of him that really wants to change. As Walter seems to improve, we see him struggle most with his family. A puppet can be something that can be lived with/accepted more easily in the workplace where emotional intimacy isn’t needed, but at home, children need a father and a wife needs a husband. Walter shouldn't have expected to be able to hide behind his hand puppet for as long as he did.
This struggle in the family made perfect sense to me. Walter was broken and was in the process of fixing himself. While his family situation wasn’t the greatest, they needed to support him in his quest to repair himself and get out of the rut he’d been stuck in for such a long time. While most of the family members tried to exhibit patience, we see that Walter’s improvement becomes more about himself than about being the father and husband he should be (evident when the Beaver seems to be in control).
I loved the underlying story between Porter and Norah. This was perhaps the one redeeming part of the story that didn’t leave us depressed. Porter helps the seemingly perfect Norah (cheerleader, valedictorian, etc.) come to the realization that we shouldn’t hide from the truth. As part of the graduation speech Porter inspired Norah to write, she says,
“I'm not okay, not at all, the truth is, I'm missing something. The thing I loved the most, the face I wish were in the front row right now, the brother I'll never get back. So what do I do with that? What do any of us do? Besides lie. This is what I believe, right now, in this auditorium, there is someone who is with you, someone who is willing to pick you up, dust you off, kiss you, forgive you, put up with you, wait for you, carry you, love you. So while everything may not be okay, one thing I know is true, you do not have to be alone.”
In the last few minutes we do see Walter get his family back. His estranged son accepts him, and life is happy, but this is only in the last few minutes of the movie. The underlying symbol of a roller coaster suggests that life is full of ups and downs, and while we may not know how long the downs will last, better times are bound to occur. We had to wade through close to 85 minutes of oppressive turmoil to get to this semi-inspirational message, and it wasn’t worth the wait.