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The Whale review: The return of Brendan Fraser is massively manipulative to an effective degree


First seen masturbating while he watches porn online, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), the main character of The Whale, isn’t just morbidly obese; He’s a lumbering leviathan of a man, so fat he can barely move himself off his couch, let alone leave his apartment. He sweats profusely, vomits in the dustbin and chokes on junk food. “Who wants me to be a part of their life?” he asks plaintively towards the end of the film. Even his daughter calls him disgusting.


Arren Aronofsky’s film is stodgy and mockish. Looking at it, you feel grossly manipulated but the approach is undeniably effective. But 14 years ago the same director made it equally ugly and melodious Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke as a washed-up fighter in a similar state of physical humiliation. Don’t know how many awards that film won. wouldn’t be surprised if whale That’s what he does.

fraser was the star of movies like Mother And George of the Woods Back in the days he was a more conventionally sized leading man. Now, covered in layers of prosthetics, he gives one of those sad-eyed performances, like a dog with an injured paw begging for a bone, that many viewers will find it hard to resist.

Charlie makes a living by giving online English literature tutorials. He lies to his students that his laptop’s camera is broken so he doesn’t have to reveal himself in his full weirdness. As the film progresses, we gradually learn why he allowed himself to get so monstrously out of shape. Exactly a decade earlier, he walked out on his marriage, leaving his then eight-year-old daughter to take up with a student named Alan, whom she had fallen in love with. Alan is now dead. Charlie is wracked with guilt. He is also suffering from congestive heart failure, which can take his life anytime.

The film is based on a play by Samuel D Hunter. Aronofsky does little to open up his source material for the screen; The whole story takes place in Charlie’s apartment. In its lighter moments, The Whale is reminiscent of an American family sitcom filled with eccentric relatives and friends who constantly bicker but genuinely love each other. Various characters come to Charlie’s door. A regular visitor is Liz, (Hong Chow), a sharp-tongued but affectionate woman who has a demanding job, yet attends to his medical needs and puts him in food.


Also making frequent reappearances is Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a hapless young missionary from a cult-like religious group who seeks to save the fat man’s soul. Then, most important to Charlie, is his estranged daughter, Ellie (stranger things‘ Sadie Sink), now 17 and in danger of dropping out of high school. She wants him to help her with her school essays, but doesn’t hide her contempt for him. His mother (Samantha Morton) doesn’t know he’s there.

Physical drama ensues when Charlie tries to walk a few steps in his apartment or go to the bathroom. The slightest exertion tires him. Despite his shabby appearance, he is a sweet-natured and optimistic character with a charming demeanor and charming sense of humor. The film’s title refers not only to its size, but to an essay written by a disgruntled child, paraphrasing Herman Melville’s classic novel moby dick, He knows the essay by heart and considers it his favorite piece of writing.

Aronofsky goes so far out of his way to portray Charlie as a repulsive bum in the opening scenes that it’s inevitable that the character’s better qualities will soon come to the fore. Fraser has retained the likeable qualities that made him so popular with audiences in mainstream films of the 1990s. He demands honesty from his students but there is nothing cynical about him.


Pathos is laid on very thick. Sometimes, you wonder why a sophisticated filmmaker like Aronofsky would resort to such clever tactics. However, beneath all its blubber, it turns out to be a film with a very big heart.


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