“A reclusive English teacher attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.” – IMDB
If there is one thing I’ve learned writing this blog over the past three years, it is that EXPECTATIONS ARE EVERYTHING when it comes to the moviegoing experience. Looking forward to a movie? It’s bound to disappoint you. Have zero expectations? It just might surprise you. So it was with the highly-anticipated The Whale.
As a 90s child, I love me some Brendan Fraser. Airheads, School Ties, Bedazzled, Blast from the Past, George of the Jungle, and (of course) The Mummy. He didn’t always get the respect he deserved and I, along with the rest of the world, rejoiced to hear that not only was he making his acting comeback, but that his performance was well-received on the film festival circuit. However, I did hear that the film itself was not as well-received as Fraser’s performance and, with Darren Aronofsy (of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan fame) at the helm, I was apprehensive going into the movie. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by what I found, although with a few caveats.
Let’s start with the negative:
- The subject matter is bleak. With Fraser playing a a morbidly obese and reclusive English teacher who tries to restore his relationship with his teenage daughter, the tone at times felt overwhelming and even a bit judgmental of its protagonist.
- While Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morten gave memorable performances, Sadie Sink and Ty Simpkins characters (and trust me, this hurts me to say) felt a bit more one note to the point of being almost grating. It felt like their performances were turned up to eleven, which may have worked better in a theater setting than it did on film.
Now for the positive:
- The film stayed true to it’s roots in the theater (even if not all of the performances played as well on-screen) and the focus on performance, dialogue, symbolism, and ambiance transports you into the story in a way that is difficult for many films to achieve.
- While it’s hard for me to say this without having seen the Oscar nominations or all of the performances that are likely to be nominated, I do think that Fraser’s chances of winning Best Actors are very high. His performance was absolutely incredible, nuanced, sympathetic, and as good as I’ve ever seen. I hope that this film is the beginning of the Brenaissance that we’ve all hoped for.
If you can go into this film with an open mind and try to banish any expectations of what you think it will be, then I think that you are bound to appreciate it for what it is: an intimate look at the human condition lead by a powerhouse performer. Welcome back, Brendan!
Rating: 8 out 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also watch: Moonlight, Hustle
Streaming: In Theaters only
With: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky