Brendan Fraser looks stunning in "The Whale" 1:07
Love poured out on Brendan Fraser outside of film festivals inflates expectations for "The Whale" ludicrously out of proportion, in a film based on a play that takes place almost entirely inside a lonely apartment. .
Weighed down not by its morbidly obese lead, but rather by its supporting actors, Fraser deserves praise for her performance buried under makeup, but that's not enough to keep the film afloat.
Brendan Fraser stars as an overweight man trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter in "The Whale."
In a sense, the focus on a sad, lonely, and self-destructive man has a lot in common with director Darren Aronofsky's 2008 film "The Wrestler," which also had the protagonist confront his own mortality.
Here, the focus is on Charlie, played by Fraser, who is so massive—the 600-pound figure reported in press materials is never mentioned—that he is gasping for breath, only able to walk. with a walker.
Unable to venture outside, he relies on food deliveries and an attentive nurse (Hong Chau, as the more interesting co-star), who playfully chides him for constantly apologizing to her.
Brendan Fraser is moved after 6-minute ovation for "The Whale"
at the Venice Film Festival
Charlie teaches college literature courses online, but hides his appearance from his bored students.
His hermit life is interrupted by a missionary (Ty Simpkins), who knocks on his door at an inopportune moment, when Charlie is having one of several dangerous episodes.
"I don't go to hospitals," Charlie tells him, which brings to mind the movie "Leaving Las Vegas" in that the central character hopelessly states from the start that he has no intention of dealing with or treating the disease that is slowly killing him.
However, Charlie has something else on his mind as he approaches the now high school age daughter (Sadie Sink from "Stranger Things") and the one he abandoned as a child, clearly eager to make amends with him. her before it's too late.
Surprised by her size, he tells her of her weight, "I let it get out of hand", later detailing the tragedy that preceded that arc.
Even allowing for her rightful grievance, the daughter joins a long line of poorly written teens in the movies seemingly devoid of any mechanism between rage and tears.
The film is an adaptation by Samuel D. Hunter of his play, "The Whale" which actually derives its title from the book "Moby Dick", although the convincing enormity of Charlie's physique obviously adds another meaning.
What the film fails to achieve is the sense of hope that is intended to be found in a story that counts the days as his health seems to decline.
Film festivals can produce a kind of collective euphoria, but watching "The Whale" it's hard not to be taken aback by the standing ovation the film received in Venice, even allowing for the understandable appreciation attached to the sort of return of Fraser—in a surprising departure from his heartthrob days on "The Mummy"—and the difficult logistics involved.
As poignant and heartbreaking as Charlie's situation is, "The Whale" fails to transcend the line between theater and cinema.
Although it's easy to root for Fraser to win awards, in the annual search for award-winning films, he counts this as another one that didn't make it.
Rated R, "The Whale" opens in US theaters on December 9.