Along with his just-announced and never surprising Golden Globes nomination and extra accolades certain to return, Brendan Fraser has made a outstanding comeback in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. The lovable actor parlayed his function as a hip caveman in Encino Man right into a handful of fascinating characters within the 90’s (who else might try this?) solely to just about disappear from the highlight for the previous a number of years. The actor’s unmistakable compassion continues to be on show in his newest, whilst he works inside the confines of a girthsome prosthetic swimsuit and possibly extra cumbersome– a narrative that often chokes on the suds of daytime cleaning soap melodrama.
Heartbreaking and bleak, Fraser performs Charlie, a 600-pound recluse who’s affected by congestive coronary heart failure. Confined to his drab residence, Charlie spends his days educating on-line English programs, gorging on pizzas, masturbating to homosexual porn and struggling to make it to the lavatory on his walker. The one proof he truly exists is thru a small black field on his zoom lessons (he tells his college students that his laptop’s digital camera is lifeless).
A worthy addition to Aronofsky’s canon of misplaced souls, Charlie is intent on engaging in yet one more factor on earth earlier than he slips into the ether. Very like Randy “The Ram” Robinson’s final determined clutch for glory in The Wrestler or Nina Sayers’ grotesque perfectionism in Black Swan, Charlie is aware of it’s too late for a second chapter, however nonetheless pushes previous the imprisonment of his physique to realize religious redemption.
Based mostly on the play by Samuel D. Hunter, who additionally penned the screenplay, the film’s residence setting isn’t probably the most cinematic of set items. Truly, it’ll most likely make you squirm. We rapidly be taught that Charlie’s insatiable and suicidal urge for food is a results of his lover Alan’s suicide. He merely can’t cope. Alan’s sister, a prickly nurse named Liz (a implausible Hong Chau) stops by on daily basis to examine his blood strain, which is rising more and more excessive. She warns him that except he will get to a hospital, he received’t make it previous the week. Because the film begins with a placard telling us its Monday and counts down from there, Liz’s warning isn’t an empty menace however a prophecy. After all, Charlie ignores her recommendation and continues killing himself by ingesting buckets of fried rooster and sweet bars. These scenes are about as disagreeable to observe as an excessive French horror flick from the early aughts. Surprisingly, Aronofsky phases these sequences with a voyeuristic, doom-laden vibe that’s fully out of contact with the empathy we’re speculated to be feeling for this poor man.
Charlie reaches out to his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) in a final try to attach. Sink brings a cryptically humorous edge to her efficiency. As a substitute of pitying her father for his failing well being, she holds him liable for abandoning his household for his homosexual lover and making a multitude out of their lives. In a determined try to hold her round, Charlie gives her cash and even rewrites her faculty essays. In these moments when she stomps into his residence like a twister and slings insults at him, the film crackles with life. Sink is implausible and albeit saves the film from drowning in a puddle of solemnity.
For a recluse, Charlie will get a number of guests. You nearly anticipate him to throw certainly one of his pizza crusts at them and squeal, “Get out!” If he had been taking part in a relatable human being as an alternative of an martyr, he would just do that. As a substitute, the film opts for dire earnestness as an alternative of irony, which turns it into an unbearable weep-fest. Look no additional than the misconceived character of Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a callow missionary from the native church who needs to save lots of Charlie from everlasting damnation. Though Simpkins is sort of efficient as Thomas, his function is a clear and preposterous means to inject non secular themes right into a film that’s already brimming with allegory. The film references Moby Dick each ten minutes. Now, we have to discuss The Bible? Jeesh.
The film has its coronary heart in the best place, however it makes an attempt to shroud everybody in their very own existentialist dilemma, which merely feels empty. Who cares if a younger missionary smokes pot or Ellie takes pictures of everybody and posts them on Fb, or her mom (Samantha Morton) desperately searches for a bottle of vodka in Charlie’s cabinets? The improprieties don’t make these individuals extra fascinating, simply confused. One other downside is the narrative’s stilted tone. Because it’s primarily based on a play, the screenplay depends on too many protracted conversations and mushy theatrics. Aronofsky tries his finest to show this materials into one thing wealthy and cinematic, however you’ll be able to really feel the wrestle.
The Whale shouldn’t be taken actually. It’s not a suppose piece about weight problems in America, however somewhat, a have a look at the connection between bodily decay and religious enlightenment. It’s a topic Aronofsky’s been obsessive about since his breakout movie, Requiem for a Dream. Embedding religious ideas into his previous works with a story fluidity and visionary aptitude, The Whale feels strained and claustrophobic by comparability. The fabric is just too stagey and small for a director with such giant concepts.
In the end, there are two causes to see this middling yarn: its exploration of religious hyperbole and the performances, notably Brendan Fraser’s much-praised channeling of ache and hopelessness. Though he’s draped in heavy layers of latex, the actor’s eyes convey subtext the screenplay can’t excavate. Charlie’s life might’ve come off overwrought and maudlin, however Fraser brings a singular empathy to the character, who clearly doesn’t see a method out of his state of affairs past now not taking over a lot house.