Beaver Trilogy

on January 20, 2001 by Chris Wiegand
If there was one film that captured the imagination of audiences at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, it was Trent Harris's "Beaver Trilogy." A collection of three short films, each with their own unique style, it features early performances from Sean Penn and Crispin Glover.

The trilogy opens with "The Beaver Kid," in which Harris meets a young man from Beaver, a small town in America, who entertains him with a number of impersonations and speaks of his obsession with Olivia Newton-John. Shortly after this encounter, Harris receives a letter from the kid, asking him to attend a talent show at Beaver High School, where he will be performing as "Olivia Newton-Dawn." Harris accepts the invitation and travels to the town to film the preparations and the main event. In the second film, "Beaver Kid #2," Sean Penn appears as the kid and studiously mimics his dialogue and idiosyncrasies. Shot on a home video camera in black and white, this shorter film replays the events of the first with some important additions and questions the sincerity of "real life" documentaries. The final film, "The Orkly Kid," stars Crispin Glover and offers a deeper look at the central character's relationship with his mother.

This is a haunting set of films that questions the viewer's perception of documentary and fiction. What starts as a quirky character observation becomes a complex study of an individual and his small-town surroundings. "The Beaver Kid" is a fascinating piece in itself, but the second and third films suggest new contexts in which to read it. As certain comments and scenes are replayed in the later films, the viewer begins to recognize their significance. Penn and Glover in particular give powerful performances, each playing the character as a tragic and misunderstood hero. At turns comical, sinister and genuinely touching, "Beaver Trilogy" is an infectious and rewarding oddity. Starring Sean Penn, Larry Huff and Crispin Glover. Directed and written by Trent Harris. Produced by Waiter Hart. No distributor set. Documentary/Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 83 min.

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