‘THE WHALE’ Review | Setting a New Bar

By now you’ve probably seen a Darren Aronofsky film. He directed Mother!, Black Swan, The Wrestler, The Fountain, and Requiem for a Dream to name a few. He’s a guy that seems to like awards because he wins a lot of them. His latest film is The Whale, which means he’s going to be adding a few more awards to his already plentiful haul. Yes, The Whale is good. Now let’s dive into why it’s good.

The Whale follows a morbidly obese father, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), as he struggles with congestive heart failure, death, and attempting to establish a relationship with his estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink). He has assistance from his friend Liz (Hong Chau), and the wandering missionary Thomas (Ty Simpkins). It’s an intimate look at a single week in the lives of these people, and everything about the film just works.

While you may think The Whale is about Charlie, it’s actually more about everyone else in the film. Charlie is front and center in virtually every scene of this two-hour cinematic feat, but there’s a very real argument to be made that he isn’t the main character. Charlie may be the only one on the verge of death, but everyone is having a crisis of some sort, and the film deals with these in a way that almost sneaks up on you.

Brendan Fraser, Darren Aronofsky, Hong Chau, movie review, Sadie Sink, The Whale, Ty Simpkins

Halfway into The Whale, you suddenly realize that Ellie could be the main character, with Charlie trying to help her see her true self. Then there’s a sudden twist and Thomas takes center stage to deal with his own life crisis. But wait, Liz is connected to Charlie in a unique and touching way that shifts her into a potential main character role. All the while, Moby-Dick lurks in the background.

Some people will undoubtedly feel sorry for Charlie. This is partially due to Fraser’s superb performance in combination with the excellent script, but Charlie isn’t the victim in this tale. Liz is the primary victim, being put through a rollercoaster of emotions across the span of a single week. She’s joined by Thomas, who truly begins to understand who he is as a person, and what he brings to other people’s lives. Then you have Ellie, who never gets to be fully realized in The Whale, but still plays one of the most important parts of the movie.

This film isn’t billed as an ensemble piece, but it may be the one awards film that truly embodies that classification. Every single performance is nearly perfect, with Brendan Fraser actually being the least impressive. Not because he did a poor job, but quite the contrary. It’s simply because everyone else in the film raises the bar so much that it’s difficult to say Fraser was the standout.

The Whale will win awards this season. If it doesn’t, there should be some sort of oddball movie critic riot in the streets of Hollywood. The real question is how many awards will it win, and how will the Academy justify giving an award to any film that isn’t The Whale or Everything Everywhere All At Once? Go see this film, then sit down and try to understand how most other films are so bad in comparison.

About The Whale

Synopsis: A reclusive English teacher attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Samuel D. Hunter

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 Hour, 57 Minutes

Release Date: December 21, 2022

Brendan Fraser, Darren Aronofsky, Hong Chau, movie review, Sadie Sink, The Whale, Ty Simpkins

Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.

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