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the whale


starring: brendan fraser, sadie sink, ty simpkins, and hong chau

REVIEWER: lyall carter

In a town in Idaho, Charlie, a reclusive and unhealthy English teacher, hides out in his flat and eats his way to death. He is desperate to reconnect with his teenage daughter for a last chance at redemption.

In Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, Brendan Fraser gives a virtuosic performance as Charlie is a reclusive English teacher living with severe obesity whose time is running out. As he makes a last bold attempt to reconcile with his estranged teenage daughter and broken family, Charlie must confront, with his full heart and fierce wit, long-buried traumas and unspoken love that have haunted him for decades.


The Brenaissance. Ushered in by this performance, Brendan Fraser has returned from obscurity to the very heights of stardom. Receiving widespread acclaim and award’s galore for this performance, including an Oscar nom, Brendan Fraser is very much back. 


While aspects of the story telling may falter, Fraser’s performance is one for the ages. One of the best of 2023. 


The narrative is a simple one and pretty much contained to Charlie’s home where he lives in squalor. His reclusive existence is broken by his friend Liz, who is a nurse, Thomas, a church missionary, and Charlie's estranged daughter Ellie. And this is where the drama and tension is to be found. 


The Whale is based on an acclaimed play and there are certain story beats where you can really sense that as some of it hasn't translated completely to the cinematic format. The subplot involving the missionary Thomas appears to be lacking nuance, falling into a stereotype of sorts. 


But The Whale is all about Brendan Fraser’s performance. He is the beating heart of this film. It’s not just the prosthetics and fat suit that make his performance outstanding, there is a broken soulfulness from losing the love of his life and from his crippling obesity that leaps off the screen. Frequently there are moments that will leave you in tears but one line in particular that he delivers with so much truth will completely floor you.

While aspects of the story telling may falter, Fraser’s performance is one for the ages. One of the best of 2023.


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