Summer Movie Reviews: Mel Gibson, Jessica Alba, and Harper Lee on the Valley’s Silver Screen

Mel Gibson’s The Beaver, Jessica Alba’s An Invisible Sign, and Mary Murphy’s biopic Hey Boo, about To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, all have ties to the Hudson Valley

With Thor and Fast Five tearing up the box office, you know that the summer movie season has officially begun. But if you seek out the little indies — and there’s been a flood of ’em in the past couple weeks — you can find glimpses of local scenery.

Let’s start with The Beaver, the new movie directed by Jodie Foster and starring Mel Gibson. It’s dark and strange, about a man (Gibson) who experiences crippling depression and finds he can rejuvenate his life — if he only communicates through a stuffed beaver hand-puppet. (The bad parts of his personality stay in his human form, he explains, while the good parts are channeled into the puppet. Somehow, this makes him talk like Ray Winstone.) The Beaver’s release ran into trouble when it came to light that Gibson’s suffers from mental illness that no amount of hand-puppets can heal.

In the film, though, his character has a shot, and he tries to give his family the happy suburban lifestyle they deserve. How do you accomplish this? A trip to Playland, of course. The quick, wordless montage-of-fun doesn’t mention the amusement park by name, but it’s unmistakable. The family even goes through the mouth of the Dragon Coaster!

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Changes are in store for Playland. I’d say its cameo in The Beaver should help raise its profile — it’s portrayed as a place of family togetherness, bonding, and fun, after all — but that’s only if an audience will bother to go out and see it. Besides the off-screen Gibson drama, the film is dogged with only so-so reviews.

» Read about other summer movies
» Read about Rye Playland’s renovations
» Read reviews of The Beaver starring Mel Gibson
» Read more from the Poptional Reading blog

mel gibson the beaver movie
jessica alba in an invisible sign

The next local sighting comes in a movie that’s also about a family coping with mental illness: An Invisible Sign. Never heard of it? That’s because the theatrical release is teeny-tiny: It’s only playing once a day at the IFC Center in New York City. But that doesn’t mean you have to head to the Metro-North to check it out: The film’s also available in OnDemand — an option you might want to explore, because these reviews make it seem like it might be better for a rental than a full-price theatrical ticket.

The book is based on Aimee Bender’s fantastic novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own, about a girl (Mona, played by Jessica Alba) who retreats into the world of mathematics as a way of coping with her father’s sudden mental illness diagnosis. She develops obsessions and compulsions of her own, and struggles with managing them as she starts a new job teaching math to elementary school kids.

All of these mental quirks sure make it hard to flirt with the cute science teacher, though they go on a semi-sorta-kinda date together to… the Tarrytown Music Hall, of course! The date is a disaster and Mona ends up running away, but it does make for a nice scene of her sprinting down the streets of Tarrytown.

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» Read reviews of An Invisible Sign starring Jessica Alba

harper lee in hey boo documentary

For the last film, the local sighting is behind the camera, not in front. The documentary Hey Boo, about everybody’s favorite English assignment To Kill a Mockingbird, comes out this Friday. Its director, Mary Murphy, is a resident of Scarborough. Her film profiles the life of author Harper Lee — who stopped speaking to the press in the 1960s — and the historical context surrounding her creation of the novel. But it also looks at how the book has affected people now, and features interviews with Opra Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, Anna Quindlen, Richard Russo, and others. You can find dates and showtimes here.

» Get showtimes of Hey Boo, based on To Kill a Mockingbird’s Harper Lee

Which of these would you see in the theater?

» Read about other summer movies
» Read about Rye Playland’s renovations
» Read reviews of The Beaver starring Mel Gibson
» Read more from the Poptional Reading blog

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