Movie Review – “The Whale” 

By: Talon Boudreaux ’24 (contributing writer)

For those unaware, Brendan Fraser is an actor best known for his films in the 1990s, such as George of the Jungle and The Mummy. However, in the mid-2000s, he had to put his career on hold because of multiple personal issues that resulted in him becoming depressed. These issues included health problems, the death of his mother, a messy divorce, and an alleged assault upon him. It was even claimed that he was “blacklisted” by Hollywood at one point.  

So when it was announced that Fraser would return to the big screen with “The Whale,” people were excited… so excited that fans started calling this era of Fraser’s return “The Brenaissance.” They would be most certainly correct.

Brendan Fraser would go on to receive a six-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Fest for his heartbreaking performance as the film’s main character Charlie and win the 2023 Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actor. Both of which he deserved. 

I bring this story up because of its impact on the audience’s viewing of the movie. Knowing that the lead actor had gone through numerous traumatic events and seeing him on-screen putting his heart out in this emotional yet disturbing role really does add to all the emotional scenes he’s in. It makes you want to break down in tears so you can cry with him. Even if you think that this film isn’t for you, it’s still worth seeing just for him alone. 

Now with all that out of the way, it’s time to get to the actual review.

The Whale is a psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and written by Samual D. Hunter. It was released in the US on December 9th, 2022, and it did relatively well at the box office. 

The story is about a 600-pound English teacher named Charlie (Brendan Fraser) who has just been told by his friend/nurse Liz (Hong Chau) that he will die in a few days because of his severe obesity. Because of this, he tries to rekindle the lost relationship with his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), whom he hasn’t seen in eight years. 

The film takes place entirely in Charlie’s apartment throughout its run. While it may sound like nothing special, it actually adds a lot of depth to the movie. The apartment is always somewhat dark and not well-kept, which adds to the overall atmosphere and tone the film is going for. In addition, the film’s 4:3 aspect ratio makes Charlie look way bigger in every scene he’s in and – in my opinion – would look generally worse if the movie was shot in the normal 16:9 ratio.

It is widely known among movie-watchers that Darren Aronofsky is known for his psychological style of filmmaking, and The Whale is no exception. It tackles many dark themes and topics, including obesity, depression, suicide, and abuse. While it may not be as horrifying as Aronofsky’s other films, it is still able to either leave you disturbed or “empty” after a scene ends. 

Even with its disturbing contents, I still strongly recommend this to fans of brighter cinema as it holds more to its name than just an unsettling experience. 

The performances alone are enough to justify watching the film, especially with the beloved Brendan Fraser. His performance as Charlie is downright beautiful as it is heartfelt, which is probably why most went to go watch the film in the first place (including me). Sadie Sink also performs well with her terrifying yet sympathetic depiction of Ellie Sarsfield. Out of all of them, I think Hong Chau should be given more applause for her performance as Liz due to the character’s complexities. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with this movie. While I will say that The Whale isn’t for most people with its eerie tone and depiction of obesity, I still think the movie is worth watching and should be praised for the dark subject matter that it handles. 

Besides, whether you agree or disagree with my take, you cannot deny that this was the perfect movie for Brendan Fraser’s comeback.


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