The Whale Movie review: An underwhelming awards play

The Whale
The Whale /

The Whale, one of the most hyped movies of 2022 is finally set to release in the thick of award season. Does the film live up to the massive hype? Is Brendan Fraser the rightful leader of the Best Actor clubhouse? Let’s dive in.

The movie follows the story of an English teacher that is living with obesity and attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter. The movie was written and directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, and Hong Chau. It’s based on the play by Samuel D. Hunter.

When we meet Charlie (Fraser), he’s in the middle of teaching an online class when his camera is off. Of course, we can see why he would want the camera off, but one of his students chirp in, making light of his camera not being fixed yet. However, the student didn’t realize he had typed the message to the whole class, and Charlie mocked the student for a second before diving into the assignment.

Shortly after this, we meet Liz (Chau), who seems to be Charlie’s helper. She helps him with his medical needs, grocery shopping, etc. Liz tells Charlie his blood pressure is through the roof, and he must go to a hospital. Sadly, he mentions that if you go to the hospital, you rack up a bunch of bills, and go into debt. He doesn’t want to do that. Later, we meet his daughter Ellie, who hates him for abandoning her when she was eight. She has a lot of pent-up hostility towards him, but she’s veering down a bad path and unsure of what she wants.

The Whale is overrhyped

After hearing all the hype surrounding the film, I wondered what movie they watched. Unfortunately, Samuel D. Hunter’s script is somewhat of a disaster. It has massive tone issues, doesn’t let things sink inside you long enough to care, and right around the time I think you’re supposed to care (the last 10-15 minutes), the movie was so rough around the edges, I couldn’t emotionally connect.

I love Brendan Fraser and wish nothing but the best for his comeback. However, this performance is FINE, at best. If he were to win an Academy Award for this performance, it would be based on his career and this comeback, nothing more. Personally, the best performance in this movie came from Hong Chau as Liz.

The only moments that I felt emotionally attached to anything were with her character. There is a scene on the porch between Liz and Thomas that should be her Oscar clip. Also, Sadie Sink was fine in the role of Ellie. She played a bratty teenager and gave what she could with a lackluster script.

Overall, if you take the entire hype around the film and throw it away, the movie still has glaring holes holding it back. Aronofsky is better than this, and I know he is because this was a swing-and-miss for him. Honestly, don’t get me started on that horrendous ending, either. You can wait until The Whale is on one of the streaming platforms before checking it out. It’s not worth checking out on the big screen.

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The Whale hits theaters on Dec. 9, 2022.