“The Whale” (2022)- Movie Review

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau and Sadie Sink

                                                                                                              ‘Powerful Drama’

Precious stories of obese communities are seldom told in movies. America is a country that regards obesity with stigma. In a nation where weight gain is dangerous, individuals that aren’t conscious about following nutritious diets infrequently feel precious. Since weight gain has risen in the United States, it has become a heated debate. It’s easier said than done to discuss obesity in a nation addicted to fast-food consumption. As heartbreaking as Dementia, obesity is challenging to encapsulate accurately in Cinema. Movies seldom offer rear window peeks at individuals with huge physiques. Like Black Swan dancers, filmmakers that capture obesity carry the weight of the world upon their shoulders. Today, the problem is that obesity movies exploit fat suits to portray overweight characters wearing hairspray. Originated in the 1990’s, fat suits are costumes worn by thin actors to depict obese people. Hollywood’s tendencies to persecute overweight communities are evident in using a fat suit.  Despite dazzling designs, fat suits push obese individuals to sidelines as joke punchlines. At worst, these suits send the message obese people don’t belong based upon body image. Odds are always stacked against their favor. Due to extreme barriers, obese people scarcely fulfill their dream. Hope is invisible for individuals rarely treated as ordinary people. Why is obesity awareness rare in the entertainment business?

In an industry ignoring obese communities’ high-pitched wails, Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-winning film “The Whale” is an achievement as gigantic as whales. Intimate, heartbreaking and thought-provoking, it offers insightful peeks at obese communities. Aronofsky paints compassionate portraits of overweight individuals. Boasting superb set-design, smart storytelling and phenomenal performances, it’s an amazing adaptation. Although “The Whale” is riveting, it isn’t flawless. It builds to ambiguous conclusions. Nevertheless, it provides heartwarming entertainment for drama fans.

Based on the theater production, “The Whale” follows an obese teacher afflicted with depression that faces weight deterioration. Brendan Fraser personifies Charlie, an overweight 600-pound father living in isolation. Despite his grotesque physique, Charlie seeks to reunite with estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) following separation of several weeks. However, his goals vanish when self-destructive habits leave limited time to live. As his weight gradually deteriorates, Charlie debates whether he’ll survive a disease that devastates. 

Darren Aronofsky is fascinated with addicts. Following 1998’s “Pi”, Aronofsky has transformed into a phenomenal filmmaker. Whether its drug addicts, ballet dancers or aging wrestlers, his movies follow self-destructive characters. With “The Whale”, however, the director creates a disease drama. It’s Aronofsky’s attempt to dramatize lives of individuals with a humongous body size, but he succeeds. Through captivating cinematography, the filmmaker captures a teacher’s obesity journey. Emulating Florian Zeller’s “The Father”, Aronofsky captures mental deterioration through claustrophobic locations. Like flat-bound Anthony losing touch with reality, Charlie loses sanity in his house. Confined locations allow viewers to empathize with Charlie’s deterioration. Confined locations are techniques of a bygone era. As Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” demonstrated, rear windows entertained audiences during the 1950’s. However, it succeeds. Alongside DP Matthew Libatique, Aronofsky visualizes obesity. Aronofsky commemorates diseases, manufacturing entertainment that demands theatrical viewing. 

If overweight teachers’ stories don’t attract your attention, however, there’s several reasons to see “The Whale”. While the film’s fat suits have attracted controversy, they are used effectively to capture obesity. Alongside designer Adrien Morot, Aronofsky manufactures fat suits offering peeks at overweight physiques. For instance, fat suits elevate the binge-eating scene. During this unforgettable sequence, Charlie engages in overeating. One appreciates makeup recalling Lasse Hallstrom’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. Like fat suits capturing Gilbert Grape’s mother’s decay, Charlie’s makeup encapsulates obesity. Fat suits are tricky techniques. As Adam Shankman’s “Hairspray” demonstrated, fat suits represent problematic techniques when used to ridicule individuals with humongous physiques. Nevertheless, it succeeds. Furthermore, Rob Simonsen’s music is magnificent. Emulating “Black Swan”, it ratchets tension. Through production-design, Aronofsky commemorates overweight communities. 

Another extraordinary “The Whale” aspect is the screenplay. Samuel D. Hunter’s screenwriting strength is celebrating overweight communities through symbolism. Hollywood tends to victimize individuals with humongous body size. Most movies portray obese individuals as comical objects of ridicule rather than empathetic people. Case-in-point: Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “Super Size Me” ridiculed American obese communities for their super-sized fast-food addiction. Fortunately, however, “The Whale” avoids dehumanizing obesity. Sensibly, Hunter resists passing judgement on overweight communities. Evoking Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream”, Hunter effectively showcases addiction through symbolism. For instance, food symbolizes a source of relief that allows Charlie to overcome grief. Charlie’s food consumption resembles drug addiction. Like amphetamines Sara Goldfarb abuses to battle addiction, Charlie uses food to overcome isolation. Hunter crafts a compelling character whom audiences relate with regardless of his off-putting weight. Symbolism is complicated. Symbolism enhances alcoholism dramas (ex. Mike Figgis’ “Leaving Las Vegas”). As Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People” demonstrated, symbolism elevates adaptations. Nevertheless, it succeeds. Through storytelling, Aronofsky demonstrates addiction.

One appreciates astonishing performances. 

Brendan Fraser delivers an extraordinary performance as Charlie. Fraser achieved popularity by portraying heroes investigating mummies (ex. Stephen Sommers’ “The Mummy”). With “The Whale”, however, he portrays an obese person. It’s a tricky role requiring the actor to convey emotions without letting fat suits become a distraction. However, Fraser succeeds. Emulating Mickey Rourke in Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler”, Fraser embodies a father seeking redemption. With riveting expressions, he conveys angst, desperation and grief of an overweight teacher. It’s a career-defining performance.

The supporting cast is superb and builds a bond. Hong Chau is captivating, capturing a compassionate acknowledgements of a caregiver sacrificing her invaluable time to tend towards an overweight teacher. Sadie Sink is spectacular, bringing frustration to a hopeless daughter facing depression. Lastly, Ty Simpkins merits acknowledgements. As a life-saving missionary, he’s heartbreaking.

Finally, everyone with hearts as humongous as whales will appreciate “The Whale”. Emulating Lee Daniels’ “Precious”, Aronofsky celebrates precious obese communities. The film tackles encompassing themes including depression, family and religion. As someone ashamed of his own bad overeating habit, I identified with Charlie’s mindset. Audiences aren’t required to be knowledgeable concerning obesity to appreciate the movie. Consequently, “The Whale” tells universal tales.

Despite universal appeal, however, “The Whale” doesn’t entirely do justice towards communities with whale-sized bodies. Aronofsky’s decision to conclude the movie with symbolism is courageous but doesn’t succeed. It’s an ambiguous conclusion without satisfying resolution that depends upon viewers’ interpretation. Whereas this thought-provoking conclusion elevated Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight”, it clashes with this film’s realism. As Spike Jonze’s “Her” demonstrated, ambiguous conclusions elevate science-fiction entertainment about romantic commitment. Consequently, the adaptation falters.

Nevertheless, arthouse drama fans will certainly acknowledge “The Whale” and so will moviegoers seeking heartwarming entertainment. A whale-sized achievement, it suggests accounts of overweight communities deserve to be told with love rather than hate. At a time when weight gain in America has gone off the rails, it’s a heartfelt acknowledgement reminder that tales about frail professors whose lives have grown pale with bodies as all-encompassing as whales that fail rather than succeed to overcome one of mankind’s most life-threatening institutionalizations are worth telling with details.

A powerful portrait of an alarming addiction that comes with a heavy price to pay today, hopefully it will cast a bright ray of sunshine into lives of overweight mothers whose debilitating eating disorders rarely go away by using spellbinding hairspray. 

If Cinema is an art-form with capabilities to battle stigma surrounding diseases in the modern era, hopefully it will evoke empathy for individuals that endure a condition as soul-crushing as Dementia affecting forgetful fathers living in apartments alone afflicted with trauma.

Like bright lights shining at the end of a pitch-black tunnel, it represents a symbol of hope for individuals facing obstacles in an industry using fat suits to depict them as objects of ridicule rather than ordinary people whose struggle to find happiness is relatable.

In an industry that continues to neglect addressing a disease on the rise, it’s about time that Hollywood told stories about overweight people with whom viewers empathize even if their out-of-shape bodies that are rarely easy on the eyes exceed a huge whale size.

4.5/5 stars

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