Saturday 26 August 2023

Movie Review: The Whale (2022)

Genre: Drama
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton
Running Time: 117 minutes

Synopsis: Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is a morbidly obese home bound on-line college teacher. Eight years prior he had abandoned his wife Mary (Samantha Morton) and daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) to pursue a gay love affair. His eating disorder was triggered when his lover committed suicide. Now nurse Liz (Hong Chau) is his only friend, and warns him he has just days to live due to exceptionally high blood pressure. Ellie has grown into a deeply resentful teenager and comes to visit, while missionary Thomas (Ty Simpkins) knocks on Charlie's door at an opportune moment.

What Works Well: Writer Samuel D. Hunter adapts his own play, and goes searching for the emotionally wounded individual hiding within fleshy layers of disgust and trauma-induced gluttony. The drama is potent as director Aronofsky sequentially introduces the characters who will orbit Charlie as the end draws near. Gradually the outline of a pathetic man's portrait comes into relief, and Brendan Fraser's evocative performance fills in the humanity. The Moby Dick references land just on the right side of the line separating poignant from corny.

What Does Not Work As Well: The theatrical origins are obvious, including dialogue, blocking, and performances that work better on stage than on film. The middle act interactions between daughter Ellie and missionary Thomas are a momentum-sapping distraction, while the third act sentimentality threatens to drip off the screen.

Conclusion: Tumultuous emotions revealed through impressive blubber.

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