Movie Review: The Whale

The actor Brandon Fraser is one of those actors in Hollywood who show all of us just how difficult it is to reach the highs in the acting profession and stay there for any length of time. You are on top for one year, and then your career can fall off a cliff. With movies like “The Mummy”, “Blast from the Past”, and from the 90’s to “Extraordinary Measures” with Harrison Ford, released in 2010, Fraser had an ongoing and lucrative acting career up until this last movie with Harrison Ford. Then, his career went south. We all forget about all the of actors who just don’t have a career for very long, for reasons that mostly include a movie or two that bombed at the box office. When money is lost on a major movie release, far too often it is the actor who is blamed. Movie audiences are fickle and the sudden availability of a perfect screenplay for the exact right actor or actress is never guaranteed – and is unfortunately, a rare occurrence in the movie industry – with the exception of the very lucky few, including Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.

Sometimes something rare can occur, like “The Wrestler”, released in 2008 starring Mickey Rourke, who at the time was no longer a bankable star. Since then, Rourke has had some success, but now is acting mostly in B, low-budget movies. This is the reality of the acting profession – one day you are up and the next day you are no longer viable, or you are out of the profession entirely. With the release of “The Whale”, where Brandon Fraser plays a morbidly obese 600-pound man and then received a 6-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, Fraser demonstrates an acting ability he never has before – only because he never received a miracle role like this one.

For a film like The Whale where the main character is morbidly obese and almost never leaves his couch, this film is probably the first of its kind ever produced. The story of Charlie, played by Fraser is told in an unusual way. Over a period of several days and weeks, Charlie receives visitors and through conversations with them, we find out everything about Charlie’s depressing life, including the reason for his self-destructive constant eating. Charlie makes a meager income by teaching an online writing class – and with every class, he never shows his face to hide the fact that he is so overweight. Brandon Fraser did gain some weight for this role, but most of his appearance was pulled off by some outstanding makeup and an impressive 600-pound fat suit. As with all stories about extremely obese people, it is always hard to understand how many of them can afford the monthly food bills that would be required to maintain so much weight.

The supporting cast in this low-budget movie is mostly unknown actors, including Samantha Morton, Sadie Sink, Sathya Sridharan, Ty Simpkins, Hong Chau and all of them are outstanding in their roles. The only problem with this movie is that the living room and house that is the majority of all the scenes in this movie are as dark and depressing as Charlie’s life. This can be hard to watch for 2 hours but given what this story is all about, what other choice is there? There are millions of people in the world who live lives like Charlie, despite all the human instincts to just look away.

There is little doubt that Brandon Fraser might not only receive an Academy Award nomination for best actor but has the best chance of winning this year. Considering Fraser’s career in Hollywood just a short time ago, winning an Academy Award for this role will be an amazing and unprecedented achievement.

The Rotten Tomatoes are once again way too low 63%, missing the point of this entire story and its uncovering of a harsh reality of life. My rating is a solid 85% for the acting and the way the story is told and a solid recommendation.

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