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Home Arts Alex Reynolds reviews THE WHALE

Alex Reynolds reviews THE WHALE

Alex Reynolds

Brendan Fraser is Charlie, an English teacher weighed down with severe obesity (600 lbs), burdened with complex heath issues, a life full of regret, plagued with the heavy challenge of disunity from his family, long-buried traumas and unspoken love. An overweight curse haunts him. Charlie hid himself away and began gaining weight after the untimely death of his younger partner, Alan. His ex-wife Mary (Samantha Morton) and Charlie’s daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) have shunned him because he left them for his new man.

Darren Aronofsky’s somewhat tame, yet intriguing film, adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his own 2012 play, emphasizes subtle refinement in the overweight “whale” of the narrative. A 600lb leviathan revealing a graceful personality deviating from Charlie’s heavy foot stomping gait, which is the point of the film. Its drama with a close up to the anguish visited upon the central character splendidly played by Fraser.

Director Aronofsky cautions his film isn’t about a guy fitted out with prosthetic pieces (fat suit) trying to find himself. “What I love about The Whale is that it invites you to see the humanity of characters who are not all good or all bad, who truly live in grey tones the way people do, and who have extremely rich, intricate inner lives. They’ve all made mistakes, but what they share are immense hearts and the desire to love even when others are seemingly unlovable. It’s a story that asks a simple but essential question: can we save each other? That feels important in the world right now, especially when people seem more than ever to be turning their backs on one another.”

Subtlety and grace in Charlie’s shattered emotions reach out from the screen as though seeking solace from viewers. In a downspin following the death of his partner, Charlie finally feels a gradual fostering of optimism breaking through the barrier of dark gloom illuminating the way to a normal existence. His self loathing is relatable, the dilemmas of the characters add luminosity. The narratve doesn’t address the complexities of good against evil but about being human in a society which misjudges racial cultures. Aronofsky sees this as a profound element in his film: “Do you ever get the feeling that people are incapable of not caring?”

It seems “The Whale” (theatres, purchase), draws a varied collection of critical emotions. From scribes, (“The Whale is an abhorrent film, but it also features excellent performances”), from ticket buyers, (“a beautiful, raw and authentic story of humility”). From his cinema romp starring in three “Mummy “ (1999-2008) adventures, through a fallow period from the big screen, Fraser here inherits a weighty role ringing with bracing honesty and sentimentality. To be certain “The Whale” isn’t a one man show. Support characters, enhance the reality of screen writer Hunter’s narrative.

The “heavy” dialogue broadens imagination as well as curious interest in life’s priorities and how to manage them.

Fraseradmits to lingering apprehension about playing a role that differed, at least physically, from his cinematic career demands. “I admit I was intimidated. I had real fear going into this, but that just underlined for me the importance of digging even deeper than I knew I could. I was grateful for the chance.”

As an actor Fraser was versed in all the elements of character building, but here he also had to put everything on the line physically. Guided by a movement coach, he learned to navigate as an obese person wearing a ground breaking 100-pound suit and prosthetic makeup that transformed his body. Charlie is a flawed character but Fraser gradually infuses him with a warm personality which had me feeling sympathetic, though not as his buddy, but allowing at least an understanding of Charlie’s circumstances. This is why credible screen writing is so valuable. Dialogue is the actor’s tool, and Fraser takes full advantage, turning the connection into a showcase.

Away from the big screen for sometime, but under the spotlight again, Fraser is receiving upbeat praise, topped by a Best Actor Oscar nomination (March 12) for “The Whale.” He admits taking time out allowed him to “take stock” of his life and ambitions. “I’ve learned that it’s going to do me good to work smart instead of work hard.” His smartness is opening doors to a career resurgence.


Gordon Pinsent

While writing this review, word was received about the passing of Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent (Feb. 25) aged 92. His career of more than 150 film and television acting credits spanned seven decades.Pinsent earned international applause for his role as a husband losing his wife (Julie Christie) to Alzheimer’s disease in “Away From Her” (written/directed by Canadian Sarah Polley 2006).

The Newfoundland born actor did not seek an ego boosting spotlight.He had talent he wanted to expand. “My whole career has depended on the happiness that I get when asked to do something. Pick up the phone and say ‘yes.’ I do that a lot.”

At two personal meetings, there wasn’t an atmosphere of a celebrity granting an interview to a nobody reporter. It was two nobodys having a pleasant conversation. He was a celebrity, but a quiet one.

Pinsent’s family issued a statement at his passing, “Gordon passionately loved [his] country and its people, purpose and culture to his last breath.”

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