Films at the Fox: Brendan Fraser’s performance in The Whale lives up to all of the hype

The Whale will be screened at the Fox Theatre on Queen Street East in the Beach at a number of showings this week and next.

Local student Brady Burkett shares his reviews of movies that have recently been shown, or will be shown, at the Fox Theatre on Queen Street East in the Beach.

 

By BRADY BURKETT

 “And I liked most of all the boring chapters that were only descriptions of whales, because I knew the author was only trying to save us from his own sad story.”

The Whale, the new film from director Darren Aronofsky, is not an easy movie to watch. With the amount of praise that I will be heaping upon this controversial, polarizing film, I cannot deny that I never, ever want to watch it again.

It is a relentless, spirit-destroying, deeply depressing movie, from start to finish, with only occasional respites in a joke or hopeful moment. My mother had tears waterfalling out of her eyes by the end, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that some tears may have escaped from mine. I blame the dust.

With that out of the way, I am still going to vigorously recommend it to all in the correct headspace to experience it.

It would be so, so easy to have the film fall into over-the-top miserablism, but it manages to walk an incredibly thin line and avoids it the vast majority of the time. Much of this balance can be attributed to Brendan Fraser’s legitimately unbelievable performance, which yes, lives up to the impossible hype.

This has been an incredible year for lead actor performances, from Austin Butler to Colin Farrell, but Fraser is in a league of his own. He lends so much heart, emotion, and humanity to a role that it would be so easy to make goofy or over-the-top.

Fraser’s performance is absolutely the highlight of the movie, and the performance that essentially the entire story is centered around. Still, that’s not to take away credit from the other performances, because everybody in the film gives it their absolute all.

Sadie Sink as Charlie’s (Fraser’s character) estranged daughter lends a massive amount of humanity to a role easy to make entirely, irredeemably unlikeable. Hong Chau as his nurse is also fantastic, and the cast is rounded out by Ty Simpkins as a missionary from a Mormon-esque cult.

The direction is also expert. The entirety of the film takes place over the course of a week in Charlie’s apartment, and never leaves it save for a single, incredibly brief flashback.

It would be so easy for this location to become uninteresting and bore the audience, but the direction subtly manages to make it feel consistently fresh and use it in different ways, and the decision to film it in a 4:3 aspect ratio adds an uncomfortably claustrophobic quality to the experience. It would have been so easy to direct the film in an entirely perfunctory way and let the performances take the wheel, but Aronofsky went the extra mile.

That said, the film is not without its issues. Some of the exposition can feel a little clunky, occasionally committing the cardinal sin of having characters explain things to one another that both already know.

Also, you know how I mentioned earlier that the film manages to not descend into over-the-top misery “the vast majority of the time”? It does, unfortunately, occasionally indulge in such scenes, mainly in those that feel like they’re gratuitously pointing fingers at Charlie and yelling “Look how FAT he is!” The opening scene of him masturbating and a third act binge-eating session come to mind.

Even still, the ending excuses all of the faults that led up to it. I am an absolute sucker for endings where you realize how carefully the story has been stacking up its chess pieces and you watch as everything the movie has been building to thematically comes together in an absolute powerhouse of a scene.

The Whale contains such an ending, one that absolutely knocks the wind out of you and leaves you with an improved image of the rest of the movie. The final shot, much like the rest of the film, could easily have been unintentionally over-the-top and goofy, but it ends up being absolutely perfect.

The Whale is not a crowd-pleaser. It is unpleasant and bleak for the majority of its runtime, and many parts of it could easily end up becoming too much for many. And yet, it’s so masterfully made, so wonderfully acted, so somehow hopeful despite its overwhelming despair, and ends so perfectly that I can’t help but highly recommend it. It has its issues, but its great moments more than make up for those.

I give it a rating of nine out of 9 out of 10.

The Fox Theatre is located at 2236 Queen St. E. The Whale is scheduled to be screened on Feb. 7  and Feb. 11 at 4;15 p.m.;  Feb. 10 at 6:40 p.m.; .Feb. 13 at 9:15 p.m.; Feb. 14 at 9:30 p.m.; and Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m.; For more information on upcoming films playing at the Fox, please visit https://www.foxtheatre.ca

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brady Burkett is a local resident and high school student. The opinions in the reviews are his, and the reviews are not sponsored or vetted by the Fox Theatre.


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