The Whale is a 2022 American psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky, from a screenplay written by Samuel D. +more Hunter, based on Hunter's 2012 play of the same name. The film stars Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, and Ty Simpkins. It tells the story of a 600 lb. man who tries to reconnect with his seventeen-year-old daughter.

The Whale had its world premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 4, 2022, and is scheduled to be released in the United States on December 9, 2022, by A24. The film received generally positive reviews with praise for the performances of Fraser, Sink, and Chau.

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Premise

600 lb. (272 kg) middle-aged Charlie tries to reconnect with his seventeen-year-old daughter. +more The two grew apart after Charlie left his family for a man, who later died. Charlie then went on to binge eat out of pain and guilt which resulted in his current appearance.

Cast

Brendan Fraser as Charlie, a 600 lb. man. +more * Sadie Sink as Ellie, Charlie's daughter. * Hong Chau as Liz, a nurse and Charlie's best friend who takes care of him. * Samantha Morton as Mary, Charlie's ex-wife. * Ty Simpkins as Thomas, a religious missionary. * Sathya Sridharan as Dan, a pizza delivery worker.

Production

Aronofsky said he had been trying to get the film made for a decade, blocked by the casting of Charlie (its lead character), until he saw a trailer for Journey to the Center of the Earth on YouTube which starred Fraser, when it "clicked" for him to cast Fraser.

On January 11, 2021, it was announced that A24 had global distribution rights to The Whale, which would be directed by Aronofsky and star Fraser. In February 2021, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink and Samantha Morton joined the cast. +more The following month, Ty Simpkins joined the cast. Sathya Sridharan also joined the cast.

Principal photography began on March 8 and wrapped on April 7, 2021, in Newburgh, New York. The film entered post-production that same month.

For the titular role, Fraser would spend four hours each day in the makeup department getting fitted with prosthetics that weighed up to 300 pounds. He also worked with a dance instructor for months prior to filming to figure out how his character would move with the excess weight and consulted with the Obesity Action Coalition.

Release

The Whale had its world premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 4, 2022, where it received a six-minute standing ovation. It made its North American premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2022. +more The film is scheduled to be released in the United States on December 9, 2022.

Reception

Critical reception

The Whale received generally positive reviews, with particular praise for Fraser's lead performance, as well as Chau and Sink's supporting portrayals, while the use of a prosthetic suit and certain directorial choices received criticism.

Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert. +morecom praised Aronofsky's direction and Fraser's performance, writing that the "story is one of different levels of heartbreak and human misunderstanding" and "Aronofsky and Fraser have taken substantive risks, in the name of an insistent empathy. " Robbie Collin of The Telegraph, gave it a perfect five stars, stating: "Fraser seals his comeback in a sensational film of rare compassion. ".

In his review of The Whale out of Venice, Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman called Fraser "slyer, subtler, more haunting than he has ever been", adding that he gives an "intensely lived-in and touching performance". Ewan Gleadow of Cult Following called The Whale "a touching masterclass that absorbs Fraser’s return to the big screen with passion and love. +more".

Hannah Strong of Little White Lies praised Fraser and the "strong ensemble", highlighting Sink's "tricky role" in which she "captures the anger and sadness that comes from parental abandonment", and stating that while Aronofsky "isn't a particularly empathetic filmmaker" and The Whale is not without flaws, the film "reflects tenderly on shame, guilt, and the human impulse to care and be cared for."

On the Rolling Stone internet culture podcast "Don't Let This Flop", EJ Dickson said the film was met with criticism for its use of a prosthetic suit instead of casting a fat actor, with accusations that it "stigmatizes and mocks fat people". On NPR's culture section, Jaclyn Diaz reported that this criticism extends to detractors calling the film's premise "inherently dehumanizing".

In a negative review, Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair said that the film "meant to be a poignant consideration of guilt, sexuality, religion, remorse" but "we really only know that because the movie shouts it at us. " He also criticized Fraser's performance as "lost". +more Mark Hanson of Slant Magazine felt that Arofnosky reins in his "typically ostentatious style" but "considering how Libatique's camera leeringly treats Charlie as an unsightly object of pity throughout, it's difficult to deny the film's fatphobia, though its mawkishness is no less oppressive".

Accolades

Venice Film FestivalSeptember 10, 2022Golden LionDarren AronofskyNominated
Venice Film FestivalSeptember 10, 2022Darren AronofskyQueer LionNominated
Venice Film FestivalSeptember 10, 2022Darren AronofskyPremio CinemaSaràWon
Venice Film FestivalSeptember 10, 2022Darren Aronofsky10th INTERFILM Award for Promoting Interreligious DialogueWon
Venice Film FestivalSeptember 10, 2022Darren AronofskyLeoncino d'Oro AwardWon
Mill Valley Film FestivalOctober 18, 2022Audience Favorite - US CinemaThe WhaleWon
The WhaleMontclair Film FestivalOctober 30, 2022Junior Jury PrizeWon
Gotham Independent Film AwardsNovember 28, 2022Outstanding Lead PerformanceBrendan FraserPending
Gotham Independent Film AwardsNovember 28, 2022Outstanding Supporting PerformanceHong ChauPending
Hollywood Music in Media AwardsNovember 16, 2022Best Original Score in an Independent FilmRob SimonsenPending

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