Morbid obesity is no joke obviously especially when it prompts further illness and disease. In fact we recently heard that tubby TV reality person Gemma Collins had contracted a flesh eating disease and Dr’s have given her only 137 years to live (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed). The Whale stars Brendan Gleason in the title role, himself no stranger to weight gain but the other star here is the impressive prosthetic fat suit he wears throughout as Charlie an online English teacher and looking like the blue eyed brother of Monty Python’s infamous Mr Creosote.
Charlie runs his classes over zoom but, ashamed of his appearance, he keeps his camera off telling his students it’s broken. Initially perhaps that’s just as well as though they can’t see him our own first view of Charlie is him slumped in a dilapidated sofa in his messy flat as he furiously masturbates to gay porn that brings on a near fatal heart attack. It’s only the arrival of Thomas (Ty Simpkins) an evangelist from the church of Charlie’s late boyfriend, a student who he began an affair with whilst married eventually leaving his wife and daughter for him. Already hefty when the relationship started Charlie’s weight balloons after his boyfriend died and spends his days comfort eating, wolfing down delivery pizza, fried chicken and chocolate bars like it’s the end of days. And for Charlie it almost definitely will be if he continues living like that. It’s only his late partner’s sister Liz (Hong Chau) a nurse who tends to him on s daily basis but is increasingly annoyed at his refusal to go to hospital. His reason being that he knows death is only a pizza slice away and wants to save the money he has to give to his estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) who has recently and reluctantly reconnected with him. Failing at school she is bitter, angry and resentful towards her father.
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Based on Samuel D Hunter’s stage play, Charlie, despite his situation and limitations, is an intelligent well read man who never fails to seeing the best in people especially his daughter Ellie It is something that his ex-wife (a cameo from Samantha Morton) doesn’t share and his attempts to reach out to the always angry Ellie are some of the most moving. Directed by Darren Aronofsky whose films are always cinematic events many are excellent – Requiem for a Dream & The Wrestler to Oscar nominated effect and The Whale certainly falls into that category casting Brendan Fraser in a career reviving role and he is very good and more than likely to win the Best Oscar at this year’s ceremony.
The Whale is not without its problems mainly that it never escapes it’s stage origins remaining firmly within the flat, Thomas the evangelist has a convoluted back story and Ellie’s own deep seated unhappiness never really convinces and any negative aspects of Charlie’s predicament (Is he lazy, greedy? etc) are ignored to focus more on his depressive guilt instigated by having deserted his wife and daughter. The film’s title refers not just to Charlie’s size but also his interest and identifying with the title character of Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick and it extracts of the novel that book ends the movie to great effect. But for its faults this all about Brendan Fraser in a literal heavyweight performance in all respects.
Here’s The Whale trailer…..