Austin Film Festival 2022: THE WHALE

If anyone where to look at how actor Brendan Frasier appears in the poster of this movie, and the title, it is easy to think this film is simply an exercise in fat shaming. And I know for a fact that there are audiences and film critics who interpret the entire film as such. However, I feel that there is so much more to this remarkable movie than some people are willing to accept. Featuring impressive writing, skillful direction, and tremendous performances by Frasier, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Ty Simpkins, I truly believe that The Whale is one of the better films of 2022.

The story totally takes place in the home of English language professor Charlie (Frasier), a morbidly obese teacher, who works as an online instructor. Never revealing his appearance, teaching is the only thing that keeps the 600 lbs. man going everyday. Riddled with horrible health problems, and mostly unable to ambulate on his own, save for his movement from room-to-room with the use of a walker, Charlie is in a state of depression, never having completely recovered from the untimely death of his lover. In addition, Charlie continues to long for some sort of relationship with his estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), an angry and rebellious teenager who, one day, shows up unexpectedly at Charlie’s home.

Written by Samuel D. Hunter, based on his play, and directed by Darren Aronofsky, The Whale is an incredible and heartbreaking piece of character-driven cinema. Aronofsky, who is known for his unique and surreal style of filmmaking, dials it down quite a bit to allow Hunter’s screenplay and the actors to shine brightly. Some people, who adore Aronofsky’s style of presentation have criticized this movie for being dull visually, but I feel it is a reflection of a more mature filmmaker who knows exactly what he is doing.

As I stated above, The Whale is an amazing showcase for the cast to give it their all. Firstly, Ty Simpkins gets to show some dynamic range as Thomas, a religious missionary who wishes to “save” Charlie before his eventual demise. As Ellie, Sadie Sink is phenomenal as Charlie’s angry and bitter daughter, who deeply wants to have a satisfying relationship with a parent. As Liz, Charlie’s nurse friend, Hong Chau is incredible. She desperately wants to rattle Charlie out of his apathy, and attempts to do so with the toughest love she can deliver.

However, it is Brendan Frasier who gives, what I sincerely hope, is a multiple award-winning turn as Charlie. He makes Charlie a very lovable, but frustrating character, who not only soothes himself through binging food, but also utilizes eating as a form of permanently escaping this world. I have never before seen such heartfelt, passionate and fearless performance from the actor, and I will be saddened if he does not get the recognition he deserves.

While The Whale is quite often a difficult movie to watch, it is still an outstanding one. I do not think it is the best picture of the year, but it will definitely make my top ten list. As for Brendan Frasier, I will certainly select him as my pick for best actor of the year. As I feel Nicolas Cage deserves his highest accolades (so far) for Leaving Las Vegas, Frasier deserves the same level of praise for his acting in The Whale.

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