OSCAR BEST ACTOR 2022; BRENDAN FRASER
As Charlie, a gay English teacher severely overweight and approaching death, Brendan Fraser gives a very sweet and appealing performance in director Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.” His presence is reason enough to see the movie, and his work here is worthy of the Oscar nomination we all expect him to receive on the 24th.
As Charlie, a gay English teacher severely overweight and approaching death, Brendan Fraser gives a very sweet and appealing performance in director Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.” His presence is reason enough to see the movie, and his work here is worthy of the Oscar nomination that everyone expects him to receive, although his name has been noticeably absent from a batch of pre-Oscar events – losing out to Danielle Deadwyler at the Gothams and being completely ignored by the National Board of Review, the Spirits, the NYFCC and the LAFCA (Ouch!). Charlie’s favorite book is Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” – which gives the film its title. His students are all online, and Charlie always keeps the camera off so they don’t see his humungous body.
Unfortunately, Aronofsky is not in top form here, and the material, based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter, is substandard and, yes, stagey! The film has four other characters who move in and out of Charlie’s life. However, only his scenes with his nurse/friend Liz (Hong Chau, having a fantastic year with her work here and “The Menu”) work in a cinematic sense. They have a lovely rapport, their dialogue flowing naturally, and Liz is familiar with Charlie’s descent into depression and morbid obesity that followed the death of his boyfriend.
The other major character is Charlie’s daughter Ellie, well-played by Sadie Sink. However, she is a cliche, a bundle of teenage angst, and eventually, she becomes a major irritant. Ditto for Ty Simpkins‘ Thomas, a New Life Church missionary who, for some difficult-to-fathom reason, makes it his mission to convert Charlie before he meets his maker. Samantha Morton (also having a good year with “The Serpent Queen” and “She Said”) plays Charlie’s wife. However, her part is too underwritten to make any lasting impression.
Bottom Line: Disappointing, especially for Aronofsky fans. However, Fraser holds your interest until the end.