‘Who would want me to be part of their life?’ says Charlie, a morbidly obese English teacher played by Brendan Fraser in Darren Aronofsky’s drama, adapted from a hit play by Samuel D Hunter. Who indeed? Charlie is something of a shock to the system, binge eating entire pizzas as if they were finger foods and generally looking like the worst fleshy nightmare of our thinness-obsessed culture. Fortunately, people do care after all; The Whale, despite dividing critics, has been a constant in this year’s award season. It has an easy-to-grasp selling point; a big star making a comeback in a role which makes him unrecognisable from the action movie heart-throb he used to be.
But The Whale isn’t a single issue movie about binge eating as a result of grief; it’s very much a classic play in the tradition of Tennessee Williams, with Charlie at the centre of a small universe of intense characters. Charlie keeps his camera off so that his online students can’t see what state he’s in, but those around him see only too clearly that events in Charlie’s past are driving him directly to heart failure as a form of suicide. The support excel in well-developed roles in Charlie’s orbit; Hong Chau plays Liz, Charlie’s nurse, and Stranger Things star Sadie Sink plays Charlie’s estranged daughter Ellie. The arrival of Thomas (Ty Simpkins), an evangelical who hopes to save Charlie’s soul, complicates the dynamic, but the bottom line remains; can Charlie be saved from himself?
Let’s just be glad we didn’t get the mooted version of this property, with James Corden set to star; Fraser has always been a reliable performer, from 1992’s California/Encino Man onwards, and although the fat-suit he dons isn’t always convincing, his awkward movements are convincingly, agonisingly caught. Fraser makes something likeable about Charlie, even in the throes of his self-destruction, and that should be more than enough to draw a crowd. Samantha Morton also has a key role late on, but we’ll leave the spoilers to shroud that in a little mystery…
With obvious allusions to Moby Dick, The Whale is a little more straightforward in point that some of Aronofsky’s other, more abstract projects; mother! and The Fountain, we’re looking at you. But The Whale’s tough love for Charlie grounds the film-maker’s ideas in a compelling, well-acted feature that, if you can handle the dank premise, captures some unexpectedly comical, warm and fuzzy moments on the road to ruin. The Whale is a well-crafted, traditional Hollywood stage adaptation, a success for Aronofsky and something of a triumph for the previously unfashionable Fraser, who jet-packs to prominence while poor Charlie is struggling to get in and out of his wheelchair.
The Whale is out today (Feb 3) in UK cinemas. Thanks to A24 for access.
But I am wondering if this is going to be one of the films where there’s a great performance but not much else.
Sink is good in this too. More of a film than I expected.
Probably have to go now. Though Nutcracker might get in the way.
It’s a no for me. It just seems too depressing…….
It’s not a lot of laughs….
Fraser was unfashionable? When did that shift occur?
My days of eating whole pizza’s are long over. Now, the best I can do is one of those ultra-thin crust frozen ones from the grocery store. Give me a real pizza and we’re talking 2 slices, maybe 3 if I don’t eat the crust.
I enjoyed the Fountain too, but that was more because of the music than anything.
I think nope, I felt the pre-tears thingy just watching the trailer. Can’t do I’ll-be-crying at movies. But I would if I could. So yep but nope.
I’ll probably check this out, but Aronofsky tends to slide from “different” to “really bad” for me, with nothing much at the higher end of the scale.
I’ve eaten entire pizzas, large ones, like they were finger food. Because they are. Haven’t gotten that big yet.
being eating as a result of grief
You had me worried for a mo until I realised that’s a correction!
How big are your pizzas?
Thanks for typo.
Aronofkys indulgences very much under control here. Did you like mother!?
Mother went on too long and I didn’t think it had too much to say, but scored some points for being weird.
A large pizza is usually 14″.
Ok, so you don’t get three 14 inch pizzas at once and gobble them down in one sitting, so you?
Did two once.
You want pics . . . of a pizza I’ve eaten? That’s going to be hard.
Sigh. Pics of you eating two 14 inch pizzas or it did not occur.
A real man’s pizza, like a Sal’s Special, is 19″ and weighs 3lbs.
Good ol’ Sal. When did his heart give out? I can get a 19″ pizza but that’s XL or XXL or Party Size.
6 years after he started up his restaurants 😀
I’m thinking Eddie should throw a party and give us all pizza now. Seems only fair…
Absolutely. He’s the one who started all this.
What toppings though?
Well, bacon mushroom and pepperoni is the classic Canadian. I’ll let you choose any others.
I quite like chicken Kiev and bolognese toppings but I’ll go with the flow.
No mushrooms. Anchovies ok?
Eddie is buying us each our own pizza, so we can get whatever we want!
I think I’m going to go with pepperoni, onion and green peppers…
That’s nice of him, I’ll probably go with the Kiev then.
I think he owes us. That 1/4million views each year, you think that’s because of the actual reviews? Pshawwww I say. They come for the witty dialogue and friendly banter in the comments section….
So true Booky!
Closer to half a million, Bunty.
Then I’ll claim credit for that extra 1/4 million and let Alex and Fraggle divvy up the rest 😀
They are non transferable, sorry.
So, I have to take ALL the credit here?
Man, the sacrifices I make for the WP4….
Credit where credit is due. The WP4 rule!
Any bread for the table?
I don’t think so, there’s enough with the pizza base, but maybe a roundelle of garlic bread and a coleslaw side would be nice.
Just water for me.
And side orders?
a vanilla coke zero and lots of napkins…
Got this on my agenda.