Venice #79: “The Whale” Review
Darren Aronofsky does it again- take a very sad personal story, a beloved washed-out actor, and offer him the role of a lifetime in one of the most glorious comebacks. At yesterday’s premiere, Brendan Fraser was applauded with a well deserved everlasting standing ovation. Wiping tears in disbelief, we witnessed Fraser’s long-awaited resurrection.
In The Whale, he plays Charlie, goodhearted gentle giant whose uncontrollable obesity confines him in his flat, mostly restrained on a stretched sofa. His cetacean appearance physically prevents him from leaving- or barely moving- and on top of that he is fully aware of his irredeemable self destruction, feeling profoundly guilty and ashamed of it. Of course, his only means of suffocating this miserable state is by eating even more, food being the only relief in his existence. While Aronofsky’s camera revolves around his monumental shape, almost orbiting like a satellite around a planet, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with him quickly, overcoming his disgusting look. Every bite he takes feels like a stab, every snack a further nail in his coffin. Thus Charlie is Captain Ahab and Moby Dick at the same time, being both his own tormentor and victim. Every time he rises from the sofa resembles a humpback whale leaping into the oceans. But now he reached the very bottom, and he’s getting beached, the shipwrecked body floating ashore. At the lowest of his decency and health, he is running out of time, and, well, breath. This is his final chance to tie up loose ends and finally do something right. The estranged-father/daughter relationship previously explored in The Wrestler is here re-proposed with even more care.
The film, adapted by a play, doesn’t get rid of its theatrical staging, but it doesn’t suffer from it either- it just doesn’t need anything else, being a powerful cinematic piece that works just as well on screen.