The Whale (Darren Aronofsky, 2022, USA)

The Whale (2022) is director Darren Aronofsky's first film in 5 years, after 2017's Mother! Mother! is considered by many to be a significant misstep in the director's career, followed by a series of critically successful films (The Wrestler), commercially successful (Noah), or - in the case of 2010's Black Swan - both commercially and critically successful. Compared to those films, The Whale is much smaller in scope, with the entire action of the film taking place in a single apartment. It is based on a 2012 play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter, about a 600-pound man coming to grips with his past and trying to reconcile with his 17-year-old daughter.

Charlie in the film is played by Brendan Fraser, an actor who brings his emotional baggage to the role. The performance is being praised as a comeback role for Fraser and for good reason. Fraser, who was once one of the more recognizable faces in Hollywood, had a series of physical and emotional setbacks that derailed his career. In The Whale, he brings a sense of innocence and emotional gravity to a film that could have easily gone off the rails. 

While The Whale is by no means subtle (Aronofsky is not a director who is known for his subtlety), it works almost despite itself. Perhaps it was the effect of seeing it on the big screen in a crowded room, but the film's emotional catharsis and finale ultimately felt well-deserved - in no small measure due to Fraser's performance. I expect critics may be more skeptical of the film, as at its core the premise is melodramatic. Yet melodrama does not necessarily have to be cheap, and The Whale seems to be proof of that. It is a film about connection in a time where this is needed.



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