It’s not a whale of a time, but Brendan Fraser surely does make quite a splash in what’s billed as his comeback role.
Here, the ’90s heartthrob lets it all hang out, literally speaking, as Charlie, an obese and reclusive English teacher tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter (Sadie Sink) for one last chance at redemption.
Like most of Darren Aronofsky’s films, The Whale is a divisive film, supple with themes and idiosyncrasies that won’t gel with all viewers. Adapted from the play of the same name, it’s a talky, confined piece that doesn’t voyage outside of its physical boundaries – or logline, for that matter – but does deliver a different message than the one expected.
Where The Whale will disappoint most is in its depiction of Charlie’s struggle with weight. Here, Aronofsky seems more interested in capturing the grotesqueness of binge eating and finding him abhorrent, rather than helping the audience discover why someone like Charlie does what he does, ultimately helping the audience sympathize with him for. It would seem the Mother and Requiem for a Dream filmmaker has mistaken the motivation behind playwright and screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter’s stage take.
Where The Whale excels though is in its performances – particularly from the lead. Making the most of his dialogue, and ostensible character bullet points, Fraser brings warmth, humanity, and nerve to a part many would – admit it, actors! – flat out refuse to play. His scenes with onscreen daughter Sink (“Stranger Things”) are electric, the two offering up very realistic and sincere turns of an estranged father-daughter relationship.