Disappointing Drama, Brendan Fraser Flawless

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EDITORIAL SCORE: 6/10

pros
  • Powerful performances by Brendan Fraser and Hong Chau
  • Strong ensemble cast
Minuses
  • uneven scenario
  • Overloaded director’s choice

If you could drown out the feeling of pure self-hatred, it would probably look like “Keith”. Heralded as Brendan Fraser’s epic return to Hollywood (for a moment ignoring several other high-profile roles he’s played over the past few years), it’s hard not to root for him as he puts everything he has into playing Charlie, the man whose pain has led it to a weight incompatible with life. But although Darren Aronofsky“The Whale” sometimes touches on deep themes, it seems too focused on Charlie’s suffering to create a fully expanded narrative.

Charlie weighs 600 pounds, his life is coming to an end, and his world has never been smaller. He works as a writing instructor, teaching classes via Zoom, where he always has convenient excuses to leave the camera off. He spends every day in his apartment, traveling from the sofa to the kitchen and to bed with the help of a walker. His only company is Liz (Hong Chau), a nurse who stops by every day to bring him food, check his vitals, and provide much-needed human companionship.

They try to ignore his failing health, but it becomes clear to both of them that he suffers from congestive heart failure and that he has very little time left. With that in mind, he sets out to fix the greatest evil of his life: the broken relationship between him and his teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), who shows up on his doorstep, as if by providence, after she’s been suspended. from school.

Throughout the film, which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, we are struck by its limitations. They overpower him as he struggles to not only stand up unaided, but to perform the grand gestures he so desperately wants to make to give his life meaning. He can barely walk, so his efforts are limited. He wants to see his daughter again. He can’t fix their relationship – it’s too important – but he can plant a seed to encourage her to see herself as he sees her.

Masterpiece by Brendan Fraser

The Whale is one of those movies that really wouldn’t work without the lead role. As Charlie, Brendan Fraser is so open, vulnerable and honest, bringing the seriousness and relentlessly kind demeanor that defined his entire career. The film is critical of some of his worst excesses – there’s a binge sequence that shows how much he’s given up on life – but it’s also empathetic in the sense that it very rarely contains the contempt so often implied by pity. We see him as someone who has always aspired to be bigger, but in the face of grief and regret, his weight is out of control.

Fraser’s character is a man who hates himself – he constantly apologizes for his existence. His screen presence is huge, but he constantly belittles himself – hiding from the pizza delivery man, almost ritually saying “sorry” to Liz, begging his daughter to spend a few more minutes with him before storming out of the room. room. Despite this, Frazier finds moments to bring some much-needed lightness to what is happening. When Liz manages to get him a large wheelchair, he runs around the living room with childlike glee for a minute.

Less than the sum of its parts

As good as Brendan Fraser is in the role, and however much he puts his energy into it, there’s something about The Whale that doesn’t quite work. There is nothing wrong with speaking as such – far from it. In particular, Hong Chau is transcendent, full of love, compassion and anger. If Frazier is involved in the Oscar talk, Chau, as his best friend and the only person who understands his pain, deserves to be by his side.

Their younger colleagues live worse. It’s hard to blame Sadie Sink, who has a role in which she has nothing to do but rage, and Ty Simpkins as a young missionary fits the role of a true believer who is disillusioned with the church. But it does feel like there’s something not quite formed in both of them in terms of their characterizations or narrative arcs. “The Whale” does not fully address Ellie’s trauma or Thomas’ complex relationship with fundamentalism. He prefers to focus all his attention on Charlie, which is fine, but some parts of the third act seem unsatisfactory in terms of storytelling. Ellie, in particular, lacks nuance – she lashes out at anyone who approaches her, but without the shades of gray that make her character something less tedious.

What’s perhaps even worse is Aronofsky’s penchant for creating visuals that are disappointing. In a dramatic moment, his impulse is to step over the edge rather than show restraint by taking something that can be really touching and giving it a distracting sense of clownish artificiality. The film seems to be obsessed with the fat suit that helps Frazier act and is determined to test it out by spending huge sums to make it. But there’s more to Charlie than his weight, a fact that is supported by the script, but not necessarily by Aronofsky’s direction.

The Whale lives and dies thanks to the lead role of Brendan Fraser, and few actors deserve a career resurrection like him. The only pity is that there is nothing here but the function of a machine for remaking stars. The Whale does its best and the components of the film work very well individually. But, like an essay in English, written almost entirely from scratch, it is nowhere near as significant as it seems.

#Disappointing #Drama #Brendan #Fraser #Flawless

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