Brendan Fraser gives the performance of a lifetime in The Whale
Onstage, Samuel D Hunter’s play The Whale was a work of beauty; in Darren Aronofsky’s new film adaptation, a kind of code switch has occurred – the story of Charlie, an obese, suicidal English teacher in his final days feels claustrophobic and condescending. It’s certain to polarize those viewers who will either see it as a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to portray empathy or as something more pretentious and insulting, as misery porn.
I lean towards the former, but I also think one objective truth is that the five-member ensemble, which includes Samantha Morton, Ty Simpkins, and Sadie Sink, is excellent – Hong Chau as Charlie’s one-woman caretaker, disciplinarian, and enabler brings realism to a movie that too often treats itself as parable. And Fraser, melding with the full-body prosthetics designed by Adrien Morot but never relying on it to do the work as a man who understands shame but not judgment achieves a state of grace. Oscars have gone to worse films.