peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 02 23 TheWhale

The Whale (2022)

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As I always say, I'm not a big fan of Aronofsky. Here he tries to do for (Oscar nom) Brendan Fraser what he did for Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, so expect a small boom in Fraser pics followed by a long-tailed bust. In my defence Samantha Morton does star in a small role.

This is essentially a one-set theatre piece where an exaggeratedly obese and self-terminating online-English-lecturer/shut-in Fraser holds court for a rotating cast of family and friends. He's as good as the media have been saying, but the many and varied problems with the script and characters (so many busted exits, so much waffle, so much unearnt catharsis, the voyeurism) leaves an empty husk. (This is mystifying as the story is clearly quite important to writer Samuel D. Hunter.) Aronofsky always struck me as a reactionary (cf Requiem for a Dream and this penchant for reviving actors' careers), and here I could only discern the redemptive power of secular charity (saving the apocalyptic cult missionary via the power of social media), that gay love destroys the nuclear family, and the body shaming. It's as unrelenting a grind as most of Aronofsky's pictures are.

Morton does what she can in a thin role, as the flinty abandoned wife/mother; her brief scene is not going to get her an Oscar, unlike Beatrice Straight in Network. I found (Oscar nom) Hong Chau histrionically robotic; that worked better for her in The Menu. Daughter Sadie Sink has a few more years of hard-nosed bitch in her by the looks of things. Believer Ty Simpkins has all the open-faced charm and believability of a minor Marvel character.

Dana Stevens. A. O. Scott: ah yes, the clearly articulated moral of the story is "that people are incapable of not caring about one another." How could I forget. Jason Di Rosso interviewed Aronofsky recently. Roxane Gay on the politics (the fatphobia, the pointlessness, the flawed script). Later: Fraser got the Oscar.