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Reviews | Brendan Fraser, the Whale and the Fat on Film


The members of the small cast do quite well with the material they are given. Charlie is isolated and reckoned with his mistakes as he dies of heart failure. It’s not a subtle movie. In his final days, he attempts to reconcile with his estranged and irreverent daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink). He is cared for by Liz (Hong Chau), the sister of his deceased best friend and partner, and the monotony of his life is interrupted by Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a lost missionary who awkwardly inserts himself into the final days of Charlie.

Mr. Fraser brings pathos to this role, although I wish he had been given better material, more worthy of his talent. His performance makes him a strong contender for all the major awards, and that’s a shame, not because he doesn’t deserve them, but because what’s also being awarded is such a demeaning portrayal of a fat man. We’ll hear how brave Mr. Fraser is to take on a role like this, to wear a big suit, to be willing to embody so many people’s worst fears. Hollywood likes to reward actors who to dare to take on roles that require them to abandon the beauty that has enabled their careers.

At times, it reminded me of “Leaving Las Vegas” and how Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) is granted some sort of dignity as he drinks himself to death. He is part of the world even if he forces his exit. Charlie has no such thing. “The Whale” claims to have been told with care and grace, but it’s just as exploitative as any episode of TLC’s “My 600-lb Life.”.”

In the opening scene, it’s not entirely clear what’s going on, until it all becomes clear: Charlie is masturbating to porn, drenched in sweat, out of breath. It’s unclear which will come first – orgasm or death. The problem isn’t that Charlie looks like that or is struggling in his body. The problem is, the creators can’t hide their contempt every time Charlie tries to satisfy an all-too-human urge.

So many other creative choices seem pointless. In one scene, Charlie, in a fit of emotional pain, gorges himself on any food he can find, starting with greasy pizza. Soon his face is covered in grease and he’s opened his fridge desperately looking for anything to fill the gaping void of pain he can’t escape. There is another scene in which he eats a bucket of fried chicken. And then there’s her wardrobe – tent-like, threadbare, perpetually sweat-soaked clothes. The rolls of her belly overflowing on her thighs. The walker without which he cannot move, always at his side because he lifts himself every time he needs to change places. The way “The Whale” is told reflects a profound and pathetic lack of imagination. On several occasions, my wife and I wanted to leave the screening, but we didn’t want to appear rude or oversensitive.

nytimes Gt

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