The Whale

Where I Watched it: iTunes

English Audio Description Provided By Deluxe

Narrated By: laura Post

Back before I saw the movie, or really before anyone had seen the movie, I was in a Facebook group that prohibited its members from discussing this film because it would bring up emotions for the plus sized community. Basically, someone went on a tirade about how the movie was fat phobic, using the word fat a dozen times, and talking about how triggering all this was.

Me, being me, told that guy to fuck right off, explained to me that I believe we are strong enough as people to have conversations about characters with weight problems, and there’s not a damn thing that would trigger me about this movie. I was more offended by the repeated use of fat than anything else, like we are trying to reclaim that award.

This is the Brendan Fraser in a fat suit film, and for months before I read this, it was a contradictory story. Seemed like everyone thought Fraser was excellent, but they were offended by the fat suit, and how director Darren Aronofsky puts obesity on display. I do not need people to be offended on my behalf. At my heaviest, i tipped the scale at 436, and right now I’m trying to get back below 300 after floating a little above it. i know what it means to be fat, I know what it means to be made fun of for it, and despite everything thrown my way, I am happy where I am. I don’t need skinny people creating outrage, or pushing an agenda like all fat people are snowflakes who can’t handle this.

The idea that an actual 600 pound actor should have played the role is absurd. I have seen so many former My 600 lb Life cast members die so young. Fraser’s depiction is realistic enough. I had much higher blood pressure and cholesterol at my peak, something his character suffers from.

But his character is more than just obese. He’s a grieving gay man who lost the love of his life, screwed up his family, and has chosen to hide in seclusion at home and eat himself to death. This is the least Aronofsky thing that Aronofsky has ever directed, despite the fact the film starts with Fraser masturbating.

It’s claustrophobic, like we’re trapped on a theatrical stage. Fraser’s apartment isn’t very big, and he doesn’t even utilize every room. After a brush with death, his best friend (Hong Chow) reads him his insane vitals so he knows his time is short. He teaches online English classes, but tells his students his webcam is broken. He carries with him what he believes to be the perfect essay, hoping it is the last thing he reads. Chow is realistic, but understanding (the film will tell you why), and she has her own vices as well. I always love the character choice to show a medical professional smoking. It says volumes about their character choices.

The other names people haven’t talked much about are Sadie Singh, who plays Fraser’s helper skelter daughter, who does not mince words when talking with her father. She hates him, but he’s hoping to give her some peace before he dies. Samantha Morton plays his ex-wife, and that kid who should have been Iron Man by now shows up trying to spread the gospel.

It’s a sobering film. It’s not a happy piece. It’s an actors film, where every actor gets their moment to shine. But mostly, it’s Fraser who dominates this movie. Fraser struggled with his weight too, publicly, during the low point of his career, so he does have a little understanding of what this all means. In a weird way, this feels like Aronofsky saw this play, and chose to just adapt it as faithfully as possible, without any (or at least very little) of anything that screams that you’re watching a film from the director of Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan, and mother.

Fraser never lets his fat suit be the dominating gimmick, and neither does the audio description. Laura Post and the team at Deluxe could have gone either way with this narration, and they chose also to not make a spectacle of the prosthetics, instead describing Fraser in a naturalistic way. There’s no additional focus on just how fat they made him, or what the makeup team brought to changing the shape of his face, but rather he’s as human as can be.

And that’s the whole point. Fraser’s gay English teacher is just as human as anyone. He’s going through a terrible depression, a loss, and a sense that not only does this world not need or want him, but he doesn’t need or want this world. But instead of this being a film where someone drinks themselves to death, snorts too much cocaine, or pulls a trigger, Fraser eats KFC. Trying to act like being 600 pounds with blood pressure that was something like 230/120…. That’s just outside the limits.

The title is a reference to Moby Dick, a book referenced a lot in the film. Fraser explores some gay undertones in the novel, and the book was originally titled The Whale, before Melville changed it to Moby Dick. Everything is in proper order.

While Fraser didn’t deliver my favorite performance of the year, I’m so glad he’s getting recognized for his work. it’s a beautiful performance, and he’s been a solid actor since School Ties. It’s about damn time.

But, this minimalist thing that Aronofsky went for is boring. He has so much creativity, I’m surprised he felt so constrained by location in this project. While the small apartment makes Fraser seem bigger, it limits how the film plods along toward Fraser’s eventual final bow.

Final Grade: B

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