From Darren Aronofsky comes The Whale, the story of a reclusive English teacher living with severe obesity who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption. Starring Brendan Fraser and based on the acclaimed play by Samuel D. Hunter.
What We Thought:
I don’t know if I can call The Whale disappointing because I’m not a Darren Aronofsky fan in the first place. The Wrestler is his only film I’ve ever seen more than once and overall don’t like most of his movies. I respect what he does as a filmmaker and think the guy is genuinely talented, but I’m not a fan of his movies.
I saw The Whale for one reason only, the return of Brendan Fraser. For months now we’ve all heard the hype surrounding his performance in the film. Not only was he making a comeback, but he might even be landing himself an award or two. After seeing the film, all the buzz is deserving. Fraser is great in the role of a 600 pound reclusive man named Charlie. He doesn’t leave his apartment and teaches online English courses with his camera shut off hiding his obesity. He orders delivery and spends time with a nurse friend who is the sister of a loved one. I wouldn’t call him suicidal, I’d say he’s just accepted his fate which to me is different.
That nurse friend is played by Hong Chau who is equally as great as Fraser. I loved her in the royally underrated The Menu and she’s even better here. She goes toe to toe with Fraser and she’s honestly my Best Supporting Actress of the year. Both their performances are award worthy. Unfortunately the film is not.
The problem is the story. Are we supposed to feel sorry for Charlie or root for him to get his life in order? He’s not doing anything to better himself because again he’s just accepted his life as is. A missionary boy shows up at his door and soon wants to help Charlie, but Charlie isn’t open to it. He knows that religious group well and wants no part of it.
Then his estranged daughter shows up and any hope of me enjoying the film went out the window. I don’t think it’s Sadie Sink’s fault the daughter is absolutely terrible, I just think she was written that way. I pretty much hated her from the beginning. Nothing about her is worth liking and she has not one single redeeming quality. She tries to ruin the missionary boy’s life with photographs. She’s awful to her father and I understand he left her and her mom for another person, but get over yourself. She acts like she’s the only kid to ever come from a broken home before and puts everything on her father. He’s been gone for years, in that time period you’ve done nothing to make your life better? Nope, she just sits in her hatred of him and uses it as an excuse to be terrible. She might be the worst character of 2022.
Fraser is as good as advertised, but The Whale continues my trend of not enjoying Aronofsky flicks. It’s based on a stage performance and it should have stayed that way. It’s pretty much all one location (Charlie’s apartment) and it needed something more to it. All the characters feel trapped and none of them feel more than one dimensional. Critics and award voters will claim to like it, but the average person won’t. If you are a Fraser diehard and want to see the film that sparks his comeback sure, go see it, but expect a good performance, not a good film.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Based on the Play by Samuel D. Hunter
Written by Samuel D. Hunter
Produced by Jeremy Dawson, Ari Handel, Darren Aronofsky
Starring Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, and Samantha Morton