THE WHALE – A Review by Jennifer Rohm
Brendan Fraser has returned to the big screen, in a big way. (Pun intended) The Whale, is the story of Charlie, an online collage professor approaching the end of his life. He is looking for redemption with his relationships with his closest friend Liz (Hong Chau), his daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) and his ex-wife Mary (Samantha Morton).
I personally enjoy a movie that leads to conversation and growth. The Whale checks the boxes to be one such movie. There are moments in this film that truly moved me emotionally and have me claiming this was more art than “just a movie”. Sadly, there were three moments that not only kept this as a movie to me, but they also lowered my opinion of the film.
Before I delve into the specifics, I would like to note a possible trigger in viewing this film. If you or someone you love have issue(s) with relation to food, this film may need to be watched at home where you can pause and come back.
Now to rip off the band-aid and go into what I feel the movie really would be better off without.
First, at the beginning of the movie Charlie is self-pleasuring, and this leads to serious health issues. Honestly knowing what he was doing to be in that situation adds absolutely nothing to the movie. It is a cheap stunt used in film to make the audience uncomfortable and stay to watch like driving past a wreck on the road. This film did not need this.
Next up is a scene where Charlie is taking a shower. To me this moment is 100% fat shaming. Yes, a person will get ready for valued company to come over. Are there other tips and tricks to convey this has taken place? Yes! Adrien Morot (makeup department) did take the prosthetic makeup seriously and his talent deserves accolades. This scene however is like the one negative comment someone makes about you that never leaves your head and not even 50 positive comments wipe out.
My third issue is the scene with Charlie and his ex-wife Mary where the motion used as she walks around the table, makes it painfully clear this film was originally written as a stage play. There is a flow usually followed in movies where stage plays can be a bit more halting or staccato.
On the flip side, allow me to sing praises here. I admit I am of the age to have appreciated Brendan Fraser movies. The Whale truly allowed him to show what he can do. There are several top names in movies that would not have been able to do what he has done here. There are a few scenes with Liz that bring the viewer in to the closeness of the two and the grief that brings them together. All of this done in a brother-sister relationship that is not normally felt from films. We also have Charlie and the lens through which he sees his daughter Ellie, even with all other information making it appear his quest for redemption has him delusional.
A specific moment that has stayed with me is Charlie looking into the camera saying sorry. I have been on the receiving end of this and been the one to say it. All of the feelings from both sides hit me, the self-loathing and the want to just smack someone upside the head and ask them to wake up and take ownership of their own life.
There are also the multiple scenes that deal with Charlie and eating, from the early-on do I want this candy bar, or do I want to change to the I will eat everything in the house backed with sound that has the scene hitting all the emotions. This eat everything moment is the most powerful moment I have ever experienced in a movie. I have never experienced the link to my personal emotions and demons like this one scene. This is where this film crosses into art. This is what takes the piece beyond five stars for me.
Sadly, there are those three moments that did not belong / could have been addressed differently. Would I suggest going to see this movie – by all means yes. Just ignore those few moments I think do not belong.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton
MPAA Rating: R
Selig Rating: 3.5 Stars
Runtime: 1h 57m
Release Date: 12/21/2022
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.